THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Shanghai, People's Republic of China)
For Immediate Release June 30, 1998 9:41 A.M. (L)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND THE FIRST LADY
IN DISCUSSION ON SHAPING CHINA FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Shanghai, People's Republic of China
THE PRESIDENT: Let me begin by thanking all of you for agreeing to participate in this roundtable discussion. I want to say that the purpose of this discussion is to help me and my wife and the American people, through us, understand the changes that are going on in modern China, the challenges that are out there, and what all of you are doing in your various lives to deal with these changes.
For us, this is a very exciting opportunity to come here, to see what is going on, and also to try to come to grips with the areas where China and the United States can cooperate, the areas where we still have differences and how we might not only manage those differences, but even work together there to try to come to some common agreement.
Everyone understands that there is a new China emerging in the world that is more prosperous, more open and more dynamic. I have been to a small village near Xian where people now elect their local officials. I have already had the opportunity to meet with some small businesspeople and others who are agents of change in the modern China. But this is really the first opportunity I have had to meet with such a diverse group of Chinese citizens who are active in so many different areas.
So I hope that you will help us to understand what is going on and to speak with us frankly and openly, and understand that what we want is to build the right sort of partnership and friendship with the Chinese people over the long run into the 21st century.
If I could begin, I think I would like to ask Professor Zhu, how has China changes in the last couple of years and what is the role of the legal profession in this change?
PROFESSOR ZHU: It is my great pleasure to be asked the first question. As a professor in legal institute, from my point of view, when I graduated from Fudan University and it was to find a job in -- (inaudible) -- there are only two only grades in my institute and about 2,000 students. Currently there are 4,000 students; over 400 post-graduates. In terms of quantity, we can see there is major improvement and great change.
At the time, there were only Fudan University and -- China Political and Science Institute, which had law majors. However, currently, there are 13 universities in Shanghai that have included a law school. Thousands of people are learning law, so first we can see are quantitative change.
After graduation, many of the graduates have entered into the bar. This indicates a greater need for lawyers from society. We've got information that currently civil cases in China have undergone a major increase. This doesn't mean there were no disputes in China in earlier times. It was only because the Chinese people were not willing to resort to law at the time. Currently people have a stronger awareness and a sense of legal protection. When there are lawsuits, the lawyers have business to do and there is a greater need for lawyers. As a result, there are many legal majors being established.
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Wang has been a consumer advocate, and we have read about you in the American press. I wonder if you could follow up on what Professor Zhu said in terms of the work you do. Do you believe that the quality of products, consumer products is getting better -- first question. And tell us what the relationship is between what you do and the legal profession. Can people have adequate access to legal remedies if they are sold inferior products?
MR. WANG: In 1984, China promulgated the law on the protection of the rights and interests of consumers. In 1985, I found out a very special prescription, Article 49, which prescribes that the businessmen which -- behaviors, should make compensation for the consumers. This is something in dispute with the civil law. However, because the civil law prescribes that equal compensation should be made, that this one should be more compensation than the value. At the time there was a very serious problem with shoddy and fake goods. After my work --greatest good arose because in China in early time stress was laid on the collective interest or the national interest, the interest of state. The interest of consumers or the individuals did not attract much attention.
Through my fight against shoddy and fake goods and providing service for most of the people and to protect their interests, I've done something for society, but many people failed to understand me and great disputes arose and there are huge debates. Despite the disputes and the critics, I persisted. Some people said that I'm immoral and I'm really a hooligan, or I'm not kind of lawful citizen -- I'm a very good citizen. However, I think I'm doing something in the best interest of the majority of people.
With the sponsorship and the support from some enterprises, recently we found a company. This company on the one hand will provide some consulting service to the consumers on their interest. On the other hand, our company will do some investigation work for those companies whose rights have been violated. Those enterprises whose rights have been violated need investigation. So we have taken up this job.
From April this year up to now we have helped our clients, over 50 such investigation cases -- by the end of 1987 we've helped over 10,000 consumers by providing them with a consultancy service. Through our efforts and the help and publicity work done by the Chinese media, currently the awareness of the consumer interest protection law has been enhanced and the Article 49 has taken its root among the hearts of the Chinese people. Shoddy goods and fake goods have decreased in number. In the departments -- people would find it very hard to find those inferior goods in the major department stores. However, in the non-mainstream channels such goods do exist.
By the way, I wanted to ask you a question, Mr. President. In America we have such kind of world hunters -- who will take the special responsibility to catch those criminals and there is a large group of people who live on this. I think my work is bearing some similarity to this group of people. If I did such kind of work in the United States of work, would I be criticizing the state as immoral?
THE PRESIDENT: No. Interestingly enough, many of our governments in what you would call the province level, our state governments, and some of our larger city governments actually have their own consumer advocates, people who are employees of the government whose job it is to work to find out things that are being done, in effect, that work a fraud, that are unfair or illegal to consumers when they buy homes, when they buy cars, when they buy other products. So, in our country, people who find those kinds of problems very often are themselves employees of the government and generally are quite highly regarded.
Now, of course, if they find a very big company doing something that's going to be very expensive to fix, they're sometimes criticized by the company. But, by and large, consumer advocates enjoy a very favorable position in American society. It has not always been so, but I would say that for the last 20 to 25 years, they do.
I would like to ask our novelist, Ms. Wang, to talk a little bit about how the atmosphere for writers, for artists, movie makers, other creative people has changed in China in the last few years. How would you describe those changes?
MS. WANG: I'm a novelist. I'm an individual employed -- self-employed, free-lance, so I can only view this question from a personal and individual perspective. Over the recent years, or over the past two decades, great changes have taken place in China. I believe this has been very evident to the President and Mrs. Clinton since you came to China. I, myself, feel that the greatest change that happened in China is the change in the values of people because of the change in their livelihood.
For instance, the younger generation will always have quite different views from our views -- I think this is a very good opportunity. Currently, such great changes have taken place in China and literally in China we face a great change. It doesn't mean whether our books can get published. Each year we publish several hundred long novels in China. Personally I have signed a contract of publishing with three publishing houses, so currently, the problem is not whether your novels can get published, but whether you can come up with good novels.
Each day the life is providing richer in the materials and information to the novelist. We must work hard. The only problem is with the time. I think the biggest challenge for us is proposed by the market. After reform and opening up policies introduced in China, various kinds of contract activities have been in full swing. All kinds of audiovisual products and TVs, radios are competing with novels for audience. So I think the biggest challenge for the novelists -- from the market. We must try real hard to simulate what happened around and to come up with high-quality novels. Only this way can we establish ourselves on the market.
Q I have a question, Mr. President. In a country like the United States, a very strong country, is literature a tiny thing in your country? For instance, in your personal life will literature have any impact on you?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes, very much, and I think not only for enjoyment but also for enlightenment. We have many books of literature, all kinds of prose and poetry published in America every year, and heavily taught in our schools, and at least in our case, widely discussed in our home with our daughter. She is now reading books in the university that, if we haven't read them she wants to know why, and she expects us to try to understand those things.
So I would say that for millions and millions of Americans, literature is a very important force in their lives. And every week in our newspapers, there is a publication of the best-selling books and the books that are in hardcover, the books that are in paperback. So it's quite a large part of American life, I think.
I would like to ask Madame Xie if you could tell us a little bit from your perspective, about how China has been changing, and, in particular, whether there is any difference in university life, and the emphasis that the young people are placing on different areas of study.
MS. XIE: Yes, that's right, I work in the universities, and over the past 20 years, the university that I work with has benefitted tremendously from this policy of reform and opening. Just to tell my personal story from the perspective of Fudan University, we've sent about 1,400 teachers to study abroad as visiting scholars or as post-graduates. And 80 percent of them have been back, playing a very important role in their position in the university. And every year we have a very large exchange program with our foreign visiting scholars.
Those people played a pivotal role in providing stimulus to studies of our university. And it was just as your excellency, Mr. President, said, that reform and opening up also had a major impact on university life. Before reform and opening up, the best students also goes to mathematics and others, but these years the best students always go to law, to study M.B.A. and economics. They are not so very much interested in the traditional subjects such as mathematics. It is maybe one of the contributions of reform and opening up of China.
THE PRESIDENT: If I could just follow up on that and perhaps anyone, professors, who would like to comment on this -- when I was talking with President Jiang he said, I am trained as an engineer and Premier Zhu Rongji is trained as an engineer. They were both mayor of Shanghai. The present mayor of Shanghai, we were walking down and he said, I am an engineer. And he said, we were all trained in an era when we had to build China, we had to build things, we had to know how to do things that people did with their hands. And now that we have a more complex society and people's rights have to be protected, for example, in what they buy and we have to work out the complex relationships between people in a market economy, we need more lawyers. I think China only has like 115,000 lawyers, something like that. And so, I wonder if maybe the changes are not a necessary evolution of the change in society.
Q Well, there are a lot of students who are very interested in law subjects. Well, in China we do have not sufficient lawyers and in your country you have plenty. And so many American friends told me that we can export some of them to you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I tell President Jiang we have too many lawyers and too few engineers. So maybe instead of changing all the courses in the universities, we should just trade each other -- we'll give you lawyers, you could give us engineers. (Laughter.)
Q But it's true that there are many students who want to enter the law college or university every year. On average, there will be one student to apply for law subjects that can be actually accepted as a university student. And about only one-fourth or a quarter of those students can be qualified to be a college student. So that means that the law subjects really are a hot topic today in Shanghai.
MRS. CLINTON: We have a president of the university here -- I think Dr. Wu could perhaps give us some information about that.
DR. WU: We also want to pick up the subject of free form and the changes. Professor Xie also has talked about this. Professor Xie is an old professor, renowned professor of Fudan University. I've been with the university, a professor for four years. Mr. President, you talk about the changes of university life -- before I touch on that, may I talk a little bit on humanities studies.
My university is focused on engineering. Mr. President, you talked earlier about there are many engineers today who are actually the leaders of China. And this context is closer related to the focus and the target of China for the current being -- that is, economic construction.
But today in my university there are some departments that are devoted to more varied subjects -- for example, law and humanities studies, literature, et cetera. And we believe that any for university who should gear themselves for the need of the 21st century it's really important for them to have a variety of those subjects, of those disciplines. Education today should be geared to a more globalized world, because our economy is global, so must be our educational system. So we should take into account this need in our educational system.
I pursued studies in Europe -- not in America, in Europe -- after the Cultural Revolution. And the number of those faculty and teachers in my university who have studied abroad was about two-thirds. So in this way the teachers have a strong feeling that there must be a change to the university education. So reform is a must for China. Many of the students in the university can speak excellent English, better than I do. And one of the characteristics of a university is that many of the students study German.
When Vice President Gore was in Shanghai he talked with the President of the University and he said about Internet, which is part of Information Highway, and he wanted to know what was the latest development of Internet. And I said our students can get access to Internet. That is the real target and the trend of the world and it's what we are trying for.
If you permit me, I would also ask a small question to you, because in China today the economic development calls for a development in science and technology. In China we have a slogan which says that "science and technology for economic development." Today, we need science and technological support for sustainable economic development.
And I believe that there is no boundary whatsoever in science and technology. So we focus a lot on exchanges in science and technology field. We encounter some of the problems, for example, for high-tech, the prohibition of export of high-technology. This may impact adversely on China. And I was very heartened by the fact that recently there was a lift of the ban of exporting of the advanced nuclear power generation facilities to China. And I was very glad to hear that.
Also, about information technology -- this is what China needs, because this is an economy driven mostly by knowledge of science and technology. So, do you think, Mr. President, there will be a trend of great openness in the future to allow greater degrees of exchanges between not only faculties and students, but in other areas? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I do, and I believe it is very important. We are trying to do two things in the United States. One is to make sure more of our young people, wherever they live, even if they live in very poor communities, are exposed at an early age to science and technology. We are trying to connect all of our schools to the Internet by the Year 2000, because our goal is to take the very remote schools, the schools in the poorest urban areas, and make sure they can have a connection and access to information that anybody anywhere in the world has. I think that is important.
Then we also want to have more cooperation internationally. Perhaps the most successful part of the U.S.-China partnership in the last few years has been our cooperation in science and technology, although because there has been no great conflict, it's very often not in the news. But Chinese and American scientists, for example, discovered that children born with spina bifida, which is a very painful childhood birth problem, largely come from mothers that didn't have enough folic acid. So it changed the whole way the world viewed this terrible problem. Chinese and American scientists have learned more about how to predict earthquakes and other natural disasters. So I think we have to do more of that.
And then the third area is the one you mentioned of technology transfer. We are now implementing our peaceful uses of nuclear energy agreement. I personally believe that in the energy area it's the most important thing.
I asked President Jiang if we could have a major focus of our science and technology partnership in the future be on the relationship of energy use to the environment, because America is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, warming the climate. China will soon be larger than America. So we have this huge challenge -- how to allow China to continue to grow, how can Shanghai build more beautiful buildings like this and have people have good places to live and all of that, and still not destroy the environment of the world.
The scientists know that this can be done. Most political leaders and business leaders don't believe it. Most political and business leaders think this is a problem my grandchildren will deal with -- I have to create wealth now, I have to create opportunity. Scientists know we can grow the economy and improve the environment. So I think this will be the biggest challenge for us.
Now, in terms of the technology transfer, one last thing. We are working very hard to deal with the so-called national security implications of technology transfer. Sometimes they are quite real. So we are working through that. But I think in the energy and environment area we will have no problems. And there will be more of this.
I think I would like to, if I might, just go on to Professor Zuo, because I know you've done a lot of work on migrant research. And one of the most interesting things to us here is how China is managing the growth of its large cities. And in America we have a similar phenomenon, mostly because of immigration coming from beyond our borders. But we still allow about a million people a year -- just under a million people a year to come legally to the United States from other countries. And most of them come to large cities. And so some of our cities are growing, as Shanghai is growing. And perhaps you could tell us about the challenges that that presents and what you are doing in your research.
PROFESSOR ZUO: Well, I'd first like to thank you, Mr. President, for your question. As you know, I was a student returning from my studies in the United States and I'm really privileged and honored to be here to discuss with Mr. President and the First Lady.
Mr. President, you are right that since the mid-1980s the scale and the importance of the population flow within China was tremendous, largely, the result of more job opportunities in urban centers. Farmers and peasants who saw that a job opportunity for them in the farming activities which was not so attractive were attracted to large centers. And reform and opening up has allowed those peasants and farmers out in rural areas of China to seek job opportunities in cities.
Currently, the management of work permits for those farmers and for those city dwellers are different in the sense that there has been a certain restriction on seeking job opportunities for the farmers in the cities. And there is worry for those city dwellers that the unlimited inflow of outside laborers may limit job opportunities for them. Currently, we have about 2 million people in Shanghai who are coming from the provinces in China; they have the permit to live in Shanghai and to work here. The majority of that part of the population saw their income level greatly improved in comparison with their past.
The municipal government is currently considering a plan to improve our service to them -- for example, how to provide educational opportunities for the children of those, what we call the floating population, and how can we provide medical services, et cetera. And there is much for us to address. The difference between rural areas and urban areas of China -- it must happen, but I know it will take time.
And, Mr. President, I know, because you said earlier that you are interested in knowing the changes of China as a result of reform and opening up, and also you were there addressing the questions from the audience in Peking University and those were mainly about national issues or the political issues. And there are many issues which are about the people's daily life, questions which are not often focused or brought into attention.
I was in the United States in 1984, and when I was back in China I saw some colleague going to my working place in jeans and I feel comfortable. And that time I was not really endorsing the jeans, but when I was in the United States I saw many people wearing jeans and I became acquainted and accustomed. And also, it is true, too, to jazz music. And one night I was invited to a concert which is performed in one of my family's house and the house was not very large to accommodate many people; however, the environment was lively. So I was impressed. Today there are not many people who have the chance to go abroad, but they know that there are many popular American stars and they know those popular stars' names better than I do. And many of the kids in China loves Kentucky Fried Chicken or McDonald's. And there are parents worrying about whether there will be a problem with obesity or overweight. I once heard there is a producer of a film who worries about development of the Chinese film industry because now the audience, the Chinese audience is accustomed to American film. And when they get that taste, they will be accustomed to that kind of film flavor.
But anyway, I do believe that all the films and all those cultures from different backgrounds should contribute in their way to the development of the human society, and it is the reality that China has a lot of ways to learn from the United States. But, of course, there are also many aspects in Chinese culture that can be valuable lessons to the United States. And this provides a new chance to learn from each other.
Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: If I could just make two brief points. First of all, as to the last point you made about films and travel, even though we have more and more access to each other, to our information and to our ideas over the Internet -- and some day I suppose people will -- every time someone like Ms. Wang writes a new book, someone will be in a matter of days able to pull it up on the Internet and read it all over the world in their own language. I still think that it's actually important to have these people-to-people exchanges and to have more American students, for example, coming to China and more Chinese going to America. I think that's very important.
I feel the same way about the movies. I actually have seen some movies I thought were extraordinarily powerful movies. And I think we should have more of that and we should be -- we should encourage our artists to come here. And, of course, there's so many Chinese-American artists that would give anything to perform in China and would feel very honored about that. So I hope that we will be open and that the governments will encourage more of that.
The only other point I wanted to make is just --about your research and how you deal with these millions of people that are coming here to find work. This is a global issue. There are many cities that have nowhere near the opportunities that Shanghai does in other parts of the world, that are still growing by leaps and bounds all the time, because even though there are huge numbers of poor people in these cities, there is still a chance that the city life will be better than it is in the rural areas in other countries.
So if you look at the whole world -- if you look at Africa, if you look at the Middle East and Central Asia, if you look at all these places, you have cities growing by leaps and bounds in countries that have been poor. And as I said, in our country, it's a place where we try to manage all the new immigrant populations and we have all the same challenges you do, plus, often, language differences. So I would just say that this is an area where, again, we may be able to cooperate and where we need to help even beyond our borders deal with these vast migration flows. They will be one of the central, defining trends, in my view, of the next 30 to 40 years. And so I thank you for that.
Q May I ask you a question, because you are the youngest President in the history of the United States? And I know both you and the First Lady are lawyers and used to be professors in a law school. Usually, when a President retires, they were about 70, or more than that, and they did not work any more. I wonder whether you will continue your law profession or you will do something in the legal exchange with other countries? If you want to be a lawyer, do you want to remain in Washington or return to Arkansas? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I was hoping you would offer me a position here. (Laughter.)
Q No, you don't speak Chinese. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not too old to learn. (Laughter.) Actually, I am the third youngest President ever; and I think the second youngest to be elected. President Theodore Roosevelt and President John Kennedy were both a little younger than me when they took office. So I'll be about 54 when I leave office and I don't intend to retire. But I haven't decided what to do yet or where to do it -- except I will always have a home in my home state, in Arkansas, and I intend to build a library there to house my presidential papers and to tell the story of the time in which I served as President. But beyond that I have not made any final plans. So maybe I will apply for a visiting professorship. (Laughter.)
Q We welcome you to our university as a visiting professor. You are more than welcome. (Laughter.)
MRS. CLINTON: I know that we want to hear from all the panelists, and I'd like to hear from the young man who has been so successful in the --
THE PRESIDENT: He's not here, is he?
MRS. CLINTON: He's not here? There he is, back there.
THE PRESIDENT: You may talk if you like.
MRS. CLINTON: Yes, about the Internet, because you were talking about the Internet and the explosion of the Internet. And what I'm interested in is, are there any restrictions on access to the Internet in China?
Q Right now it's just purely in the application form, you can get it right away.
MRS. CLINTON: Right away. So there's no restrictions, universally available to anyone who has the funds to have access to it.
Q Yes, and also the going rate is very fast. We're talking about more than 1 million right now.
MRS. CLINTON: More than 1 million --
Q Internet users.
MRS. CLINTON: Internet users. In the entire country?
MRS. CLINTON: And so what is the rate of increase, do you think, in terms of projection?
Q By the year 2000, maybe around 5 million. So we're talking about 30 percent growth rate.
MRS. CLINTON: Good. Well, I was interested in that because, of course, one of the things that we are asked about on this trip quite often is what the changes in China mean for the people. And most people in the world, in my country and in your country, are not as well educated as those of us sitting here around this table talking. Most people in your country, my country, and throughout the world are looking for opportunities to educate their children, to provide health care for their children, to have a good job. And with the explosion in information, how do you see that affecting the lives of the vast majority of people in this country?
Q That is a very good question. Actually, yesterday I just launched a project called the China Right. The idea is to try to provide the virtual office for the small and the medium company in China and the U.S., do some cyber-exchange through the Internet. And I own the Cyber Cafe in China. I'm enjoying the 30 percent monthly growth rate, and those are a lot of people using the Internet to do whatever they want. It's very interesting.
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you one question about your Internet figures. This library has an Internet room upstairs. I just visited it. Is it really possible to know how many Internet users there are? I mean, how do you know?
Q There is called a -- (inaudible) -- an administration bureau. Everybody have to fill in a form and they have their own domain name and IP address, so we can gather all the numbers correctly.
While you are the initiator and the regulator of the global Information Superhighway, do you have any agenda to set up some first priority to global Internet standard involving China, especially the private sector, and do some exchange between U.S. and China -- where is a gateway we can contact in the U.S.?
MRS. CLINTON: We couldn't hear you.
Q Okay. We have one million Chinese based database right now already online. In my website, I'm looking for a gateway to identify a partner in the U.S., also do some small and medium company exchange through the Internet. Where is a way I can get it in the U.S?
MRS. CLINTON: You're looking for a partner to create an opportunity for an exchange on small and medium business opportunities?
MRS. CLINTON: That's something that we'll look into and see if we can get you some information about that.
THE PRESIDENT: There is probably more growth among new companies in this area than any other area in the American economy. It's exploding. So it may be that someone is following this conversation right now and you'll get a call within 30 minutes, for all I know. (Laughter.) But we will see what we can do.
MRS. CLINTON: I would also like to ask Bishop Jin, because one of the great concerns that many people in United States have is whether the changes that we've heard about in terms of education, university opportunities, information access, consumer protection, legal process and the rule of law have also occurred with respect to freedom of thought and freedom of religion. And, Bishop, you have been on the front lines of religious freedom in China. How would you describe the changes of the last several years?
BISHOP JIN: Well, I am the bishop responsible for the Shanghai Catholic diocese. And you may not know so much about the history of Shanghai's Catholics, Catholics that live in Shanghai. And currently, within my parish we have 78 churches and there are 160,000 followers. And we have 200 priests coming from all parts of China. And we have also priests from various parts of the world, including from the United States -- priests from -- and also there are priests from Italy, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the provinces.
And I send the best of my students to study abroad. Some of them went to Italy, some of them to France. I sent about 40 students to study Cannon law in Princeton. And some of them have already been back. And also I have a publishing house, which is authorized to publish the Bibles and others, which was written in Latin and also in English. We also published about 100 books, some of them new and some of them old. An old president of a United States college has published many very interesting religious books and it was available in China and can be published here.
Also we translated -- we have a translated version of a Belgian religious church. And I just had opportunity to go to Belgium recently and I was invited to have a discussion with him. And it was very informative. And every year we print tens of millions of those religious books.
You talked about computers and Internet. Here in Shanghai, within the Catholic Church, we have about 100 computers. We have a computer room. And we also have a classroom devoted to language training and also we have training programs to train students. And also we have a nunnery school.
All this information -- I don't think that our American counterparts know these things -- (inaudible) --they have about 20,000 believers. But today the number grows by leaps and bounds to about 60 million, even. There are many of those who believe in the Protestant, Catholic. In China, all of those in this religion are working very hard to enlarge the scale of the believers. And I don't think there are any ways that these beliefs in religion are restricted in China.
And here I really want to tell something that is not always readily known to others from our side. People were often asked about if the Chinese Catholic Church was cooperating with the Communist Party. And the answer is simple: Why should the church believers here do something against our government, which is a government of ours?
Here we adopted this policy of dialogue instead of contending with each other. I believe, Mr. President, you are here to have more dialogues with us, with Chinese government not to contend with us. So I believe all the church believers, religious believers, they should have dialogues instead of having conflicts with the government.
And about the underground religion, my understanding is that, well, those people who were going what we call underground or having covered religious activities because of the fear of being some negative effects on them -- I don't quite understand why those people should do this kind of thing. And I would like you to send a message to the Catholic believers in the United States, to relay the message of believers in China our respect for them. And I certainly hope with this visit by your excellency, Mr. President, the Catholic believers in China can cooperate more with our counterparts in the United States. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir.
I would like to ask Mr. Wu now to talk a little bit about -- I know that you're a professor of American studies and perhaps you have some observations about how the relations between our two countries have changed in the last few years and what advice you could give us going forward here.
MR. WU: It's a good question. I think the presidential visit to China is conducted at a very important moment of Sino-U.S. relations. Before 1952, China and the U.S. experienced decades of confrontation. It was Mr. Nixon that opened the door between the two countries; however, there were twists and turns after that.
Just as -- yesterday you were in the Peking University. Some Chinese students asked -- many Chinese were worrying whether the United States would contain a growing China. There are disputes between the two countries on such issues as Taiwan and others. Especially around the year of 1996, there were many worries on the Chinese side about the China policy of the United States. However, after that we have witnessed a major shift in the China policy of United States.
Last year President Jiang paid a state visit to the States and now you've come to China. That indicates a new stage has been begun in Sino-U.S. relations. So I think you've played a very important leader's role in the improvement of Sino-U.S. relations. As to the future development of such relations in the 21st century, I believe that a mutually independence, economic independence of the two countries will further increase, as the United States is the third largest trading partner of China and that China is the fourth one of the States. I think the economic cooperation will further grow in the future.
And I think so long as we conduct dialogues in a frank spirit and exchange personal visits and eliminate disputes through dialogues, we can achieve a lot.
You talked about human rights with President Jiang in Beijing, I think it was a very good way. That means that our relationship is now going to maturity. There is good reason for us to become good friends, not enemies. I think the importance of such relations will overpass that of the U.S.-Japan relations. I am optimistic about that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first let me thank you for what you said. I do believe that my coming here and the work we've done in the last two years, President Jiang's trip to the United States, has helped to resolve some of the misunderstandings. I had a chance to reiterate our Taiwan policy, which is that we don't support independence for Taiwan, or two Chinas, or one Taiwan-one China. And we don't believe that Taiwan should be a member in any organization for which statehood is a requirement. So I think we have a consistent policy.
Our only policy has been that we think it has to be done peacefully. That is what our law says, and we have encouraged the cross-strait dialogue. And I think eventually it will bear fruit if everyone is patient and works hard.
I also agree that the human rights dialogue I had with President Jiang was a good thing. I hope it will lead to more open discussion here. And I would be encouraged if that happened.
Let me -- if I could, I'd like to ask you a more personal question. I read in your -- I got a little biography of all of you before I came here, and I would like to ask -- I noticed that you were born in a small rural community, like me. All my mother's people came from a community, actually, that never had more than 150 people, although I was born in the largest city in my little area, which had at the time 6,000 people.
One of the struggles we work at all the time in the States is trying to make sure that our children, no matter where they're born -- if they're born in some remote rural area or some very poor area in the inner-city -- that they still have a chance, if they have ability, as you obviously did, to live the future of their imaginations and their dreams.
Do you believe that you have a system now in China which would give every boy and girl growing up in a small rural village like you the chance that you had to become what you have become?
Q I think my personal experience is a very typical case, because China is a third-world country, developing country, and I was born in the third world of China. It was relatively poor and backward; however, despite all the poor circumstances, I was able to get education, I came to Shanghai, and I worked in my university. So I think in China, even though the overall economic and cultural level were quite low, the government has great efforts to popularize the nine-year compulsory education. Especially in my home town, many poor children, due to their difficult situations at home, could afford not -- tuition themselves.
The government and the community, with help from the outside world, initiated a program called Project Hope. Through the Hope, they could go back to their classrooms. Even in my village, there was a Hope school which was financed by Friendship Taxi company. After this school was established, my nephew and my niece were able to go to this school. So the government and all walks of life in this society have done a lot to help those poor children go back to the classrooms.
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Wu and Madame Xie and anyone else, what percentage of the students in your university come from poorer families where the parents of the students had no education to speak of?
Q According to our late statistics, about 15 percent of the students have very poor family background. Just now, you raised the issue and asked us a question. In our school we provided students with scholarship, financial aid, and help them have a part-time job. Currently, the society has paid attention to education and many foundations have been found which took as their major mission to help those children to get back to school.
In some remote areas or some small places, students still are able to come to our university, and the percentage is relatively high. Just now I only mentioned those children with indigent family backgrounds; of course it includes urban poor. I think such difficulties have been accumulated over the years. The teaching facilities and education facilities are poor. I think those students in the rural and the remote areas are finding a lot difficult to take part in the national examination to get enrolled in university. However, we have equal treatment to these students.
But in practice they have more difficulties in getting in the university due to the financial problems. I think, just now, as the Professor mentioned, there are a lot of government measures come out, but, however, it takes time. I think it takes time for us to fully implement.
Moreover, I think, except for money, according to my understanding, in the countryside, more girls -- more girl dropouts than boys. I think this has something to do with the mentality of the parents. The parents will believe as the girls will marry off, so it doesn't matter much if they get educated or not. For instance, originally in our school we had about one-third of girls and two-thirds of boys. However, currently, we had half and half. And nowadays, we had more than -- better -- more girl students in than boys, and even we have girls who surpass their boy counterparts, especially in cities.
Q That's true, we have an increase in girl university students. However, I think it has something to do with discipline. For instance, in the law major we have more girl students; however, in math and physics we have fewer girls. The girl scholars at the higher levels are even fewer. For instance, in our foreign language discipline, we have more girls. However, when we have a doctor degree, we have fewer girls. So the degree goes, the fewer the girls are. I think it is a common problem world over. It still takes time to change the situation.
I think in education we still have disparities between regions and cities and rural areas, especially in the inland areas where the mountainous areas or some poor areas are most part of it. Many children have very poor family conditions and they live in very scattered places. They have to walk miles to get to the school. However, they have few opportunities. The reason is the poor financial situation of their families.
Another reason may be their parents prefer them to go to work earlier. I think our leaders have already gained awareness of this problem and they've decided to increase investment and input into basic education. The cost of education of the total GDP accounts for only about more than 2 percent. Compared with average level it is quite low. So we think many government leaders and leaders in the People's Congress are actively considering how to increase the government input in education.
However, currently we are faced with one problem --that is the fiscal power is quite scattered. That means the central government's revenues find it very hard to increase. In principle, education is under the jurisdiction of local governments, like the United States. Some local governments prefer to use the money in those areas with economic return. So in some localities the importance has not been attached to education. However, I think through the efforts and appeal from the whole society this situation has experienced a major change. However, the disparities do exist and we need to work hard in order to eliminate such differences.
THE PRESIDENT: I think what will happen in China -- I believe this will happen because of the technological revolution. I think in your economic growth you will almost leap over a whole generation of economic experiences that older European countries and perhaps the United States experienced, where you will essentially be creating an industrialized and a post-industrial society at the same time. And, therefore, more quickly you will have to educate more people at higher levels than we did.
Because what happened in the 20th century in America is first everyone had about -- you know, first education was the province of the elite. And then everyone got about four years of education, and then six. And then we went finally to high school education. And then when I became President, about half of our young people are going on to university. Now people are actually coming back to university in huge numbers. The average age of our university student is going higher, because we have more people not only coming right out of our high schools but also coming back from society, because everyone recognizes now that we have to universalize very high levels of education because of the way the society works.
So I think that this will happen in China more quickly just because of this moment in history, and I think it will be a very good thing.
I wanted to -- I know we're about to run out of time, but I wanted to ask a couple of more questions. Go ahead, Professor Xie, do you want to make a point? Because my question is unrelated to this, so go ahead.
Q -- continue this discussion, but we know you have a very busy schedule. And we're very glad to be here to discuss our life here with you and we thank you for listening.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I want to ask two quick questions, one of Ms. Wang.
Q I really want to ask a question, but I want to know whether the time permits. I have a question for the First Lady. I interviewed many women from different social strata, but really this is the first time for me to have a dialogue with the First Lady, so I really want to grasp this opportunity with both hands.
I want to know first, the First Lady, your every gesture or word you said will be brought to public attention through media. Do you feel some kind of restriction on your movement or impact on your personal life? Is there any difference when you were not the First Lady, for example, as a wife?
MRS. CLINTON: I often refer to my life before the White House as when I was a "real person," because when you are in a position like this, people, particularly all of these people with their pencils and their cameras, try to record everything you do and then they try to put meaning into it -- whether you intend the meaning or not. So it is a very unusual experience to be in this kind of position with this much attention for things that you have no real conscious awareness or purpose for.
And I think it is a particular problem for someone in this position that I currently hold, but I think it is part of a larger issue about how we, as women, are perceived and evaluated, not just in my society but throughout the world, because there are certain expectations and even stereotypes in every culture that are imposed upon women. And whether you are in an independent role, as you are as a novelist, or as the professor is as a law professor, or in a vicarious role, such as this role is, there are many, many stereotypes and expectations that are imposed upon the individual which may or may not have anything to do with how the individual perceives herself.
So it is a constant challenge. I think in a public position it is more obvious, but even in a private position for many women it is a constant challenge to claim your own identity and your own position and to make clear who you are, as opposed to society's expectations as to who you should be because you hold a position of woman novelist, woman law professor, First Lady, or any of the other positions that women hold in any society.
Q Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead, Mr. Wang.
MR. WANG: I want to know from you, Mr. President, the organizations or institutions responsible for protecting the consumers' rights -- will they have any vested interest related to manufacturers, for example. Last year I had a civil case with the department store. Actually, the defendant was a manager of the store, and I feel really strange about that, because the interest of the consumer is vastly different from the manager, the manager of a store.
So based on this conflict within interest, within consumers and the sellers, I believe that there should be no entanglement in terms of relationship between the consumers protection groups and the sellers -- I mean, the managers of the stores, because here in China in certain cases there were those managers of the department store who were also members of the consumer rights group who can actually exert his or her influence on operations of the consumer group. I don't think this fits the picture, and I want to know what the situation is in the United States.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, in the United States a consumer in the position that you just mentioned -- let's say someone bought something in a department store and it was defective -- I would say there might be four things that could happen. And I don't want to complicate the answer, but I have to give you a complete answer.
First of all, in America we have pretty clear laws on this, and so the best companies would just take the merchandise back and give the person his money back or give the person a new product, because they wouldn't want to get a reputation of being unfair to consumers or a reputation of selling bad products. So the first thing the person would do is to take it back, because of the laws.
Now, secondly, the person might go to the consumer advocate in the government. That's the one I talked to you about. Suppose this happened in New York City. Well, New York City has a Consumer Affairs Bureau. Now, maybe sometimes it's more active for the consumers than others, depending on whether the Mayor believes in this cause or not. So if there's no opportunity there, then the person would have either an independent consumer group -- there are some -- or you could go into court and pursue your remedy there.
So I don't think there's a problem of having the consumer groups themselves too tied to the manufacturers. And if there's a pattern or practice of selling bad products, then it's almost certain that there would be a remedy found in our courts.
Q Well, in addition, some of the courts in China, after they have given award on a certain case, they would encounter this problem of having difficulties of law enforcement. The word or the judgment made by the court may not be enforced. It's also quite widespread in China. We have seen cases where the court has given award to -- I mean, the defendant won the case; however, they find it difficult to enforce that. Is it possible for this kind of situation to happen in the United States, and if so, how to correct it?
MRS. CLINTON: It is. And sometimes even after people get a judgment, they have to continue to work very hard through the legal system to enforce their judgment. So it's a continuing problem.
THE PRESIDENT: You mentioned -- you said, well, sometimes if there's a good store with a good brand name, that you won't have these problems, but if people are selling off-brands or off the street, or whatever, they might. You have real problems in America in enforcing these orders if it's difficult to find the company that sold the product or difficult to find their bank account.
MRS. CLINTON: I know we have very little time left, but I want to be sure that each of you has had a chance to say whatever you wish to say about the changes in China. And I'd like to pose a question like this, and it will have to be answered very shortly because we don't have much time.
One of the reasons that the President wanted to do this was to have a chance for Americans to learn more about how Chinese saw the future and the changes in China, because it's very difficult, even with all this information we have in the world, often to get an accurate perception.
I just talked about some of the stereotypes that are sometimes used about women. Well, different cultures use stereotypes about different societies, different people, different countries, and there's often misunderstandings that are created because of the perceptions that come across through the media about what is or is not happening. And sometimes there's not an opportunity for people to get a broader view. And, of course, many Americans are quite interested in what is happening in China, but don't know very much about the changes that are occurring and don't know how to evaluate what is happening here, and how we should define our relationship going forward, which is why the President thought it was so important to come to try to begin this dialogue that we referred to.
Are there any points any of you would like to make about what is happening in China today, both the changes and the challenges about continuing change that you would like to be sure the American people understood so that the American people would have a better idea of what is really happening in China, and through their understanding, the American government can be more involved with and more engaged in the partnership and relationship that the President has talked about on his visit here -- both the good, the bad, the hard, the easy -- what points, additionally, would you like to make to the American people?
Q Let me go first. I wish to take my time to respond very briefly to your question to describe most graphically the largest change taking place in China can be described in this way. My kid who is five, his childhood will be a lot better than mine. And I believe the change in China will continue along its way, and the changes in China or the specific form that is taking place will have a large impact on our life.
China and the United States certainly are big countries in the world and the relationship between our two countries will take time to evolve. And I hope that as China develops it can be integrated with the outside world, with the global society -- this issue will certainly be more meaningful and have more powerful impact on our relationship between China and the United States.
There should be change in China, but there should be no expectation that such a populous country can have the same change that the United States witnessed during a 200-year lapse. Rome was actually not built overnight and there will be a process of evolvement. What we want to see is the pace, there is a quick pace for this change to take place.
And my friends cares very much about human rights record of China. And I believe this cannot be separated from the process of building a legal framework. You, Mr. President and the First Lady, talked about a lot of these issues. And the United States has a very long history of building democracy, of over 200 years, many of which has been manifested in, for example, business contracts, in other legal contracts. And China is in the process of making that happen. With the daily perfection of its legal framework there will be more democracy.
To tell you my story in a period from 1966 to 1996, that is around the Cultural Revolution, our life is way better than it was. So actually we enjoy, the Chinese people enjoy every bit of democracy given under the law, as long as he or she doesn't violate the law.
So I want, Mr. President and First Lady, to know that democracy does not mean giving people, every individual the freedom to do what he likes. And in China our legal framework is being perfected on a daily basis. Thank you very much.
And I want to say that there are, as you said, tremendous changes in the daily life of China. Whatever the pace that takes place, it is change. And my perception is, particularly for American people, the American people needs more understanding about China. I've been to the United States, on trips to the United States four or five times and spent quite a lot of time there. And my feeling is it will be easier for the Chinese people to understand the American people than the other way around -- I mean for people of approximately the same age. And the influence of the media on this aspect is greater in the United States than in China. And I believe as long as the people understands what the other part needs can we do a lot better.
I want to make a little bit of an addition, and I believe literature provides a channel for people to understand a society better. There has been a lot of translation work done on foreign works, literatures, which provides a channel for Chinese people to understand more about the cultures of the United States and other countries. But there is a problem. There is not many American publishing house to introduce the Chinese books, written in Chinese and then have them translated and made available to the audience, to the readers. And I would suggest that, Mr. President, you can send a message back to your homeland there needs to be work done in that area.
I want to also say that in China, as you have seen, there is a lot more openness and it makes us easier to make friends with people all over the world. And exchanges and having dialogues are certainly one of the most pleasurable things between our two nations.
The Chinese people are becoming more and more conscious of their rights, about their consumer rights, and more and more people are being informed of their rights. And this great awareness of their rights represents a great leap forward in Chinese democracy. From the economic point of view I can see two changes. One is from these changes the people will benefit from this process. There are no people hurt. And the process also takes easier.
By the end of the 1970s we began our reform in the farming system in China, which is a household responsibility issue. And this change was certainly a benefit for the majority of the people and there will be some people's interest who sacrificed or compromised temporarily -- the reshuffling of the government organizations in the Chinese central government.
Sometimes I heard that people from abroad were worried about the slow pace of democratic changes, but I have to tell that it is a very complicated process and it can take time. And there will be disputes among those people who are involved in this kind of thought, or other kind of thought; there will be conflicting ideas. And I just want to say that I look forward to having more Chinese opportunities to exchange with the United States -- people from the United States.
Q Just now, Mr. President talked about the difficulties faced by those students from poor family backgrounds. And I want to say that maybe Jesus is in favor of the impoverished, and he will provide help, he will pray for them, and our Shanghai diocese is very caring about those poor students. The Catholic Shanghai diocese has set up Project Hope primary schools in provinces in China. Those primary schools provide the place to accommodate the education needs of the poor kids.
And we certainly want to do this better, as far as
the Shanghai Parish is concerned. And as far as the universities and colleges in Shanghai is concerned, the Shanghai Parish also wants to do certain projects. We talked about this with our president from the university. And I myself is from poor family background and I had memories of very poor life when I was a kid. And unable to pay my tuition and get education, so I really was moved by the stories of the poor students who cannot obtain those educational opportunities only because they cannot pay the tuition.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. If I could close, I would just like to make a couple of points. First of all, thank you all very much for being here, for me and for Hillary and I think for the members of Congress and the Secretary of State and the members of our delegation this has been an enriching experience and I have a much, I think, better feel for what is going on in modern China.
Secondly, if I might just close with a few words about our perspective on this whole issue of the relationship between social progress and individual rights, or human rights.
I think there are basically three different categories of issues here and I'd leave these thoughts with you. When it comes to just creating more opportunity for people to have a better life and refraining from oppressing people in horrible ways, I think it's obvious that China since the end of the Cultural Revolution has made enormous progress -- almost unprecedented for any society in human history.
And then there's the second category of problems, which is just the basic legal problems or personal problems that people find in a complex society -- whether it's consumer protection problems or -- Hillary, yesterday, was talking to some people who were involved in legal work in Beijing and there was a women who got a divorce from a husband who had been abusing her. But their apartment house came to him because of his work, so where does she live now with their child? Those kinds of problems.
I agree with what Madame Xie said. We have to -- these rule of law issues, we need to just keep working through these and work together on them.
But in the third area, I think there is still some considerable difference, and that is to what extent does a different political opinion or a different religious conviction enrich a society and make it stronger; and to what extent does it promote instability and weaken the enormous work that has to because done?
And I think that we just have to kind of be honest here. China has had many challenges. It's a much bigger country than the United States. It's coming very far very fast. And I think there is a tendency among the Chinese, in government and perhaps in the society, to see these kinds of political or religious dissents as -- at least to be very super-sensitive to the prospect of instability because China has suffered in the past from instability.
In the United States, because of our history, there is always a tendency to believe that anybody's political opinion and religious expression deserves great protection and great respect, and no matter how different it is from ours, that allowing the widest possible room for expression of political and religious feelings makes a country stronger, a society stronger over the long run. That has been our experience.
So I think we have to understand our two perspectives and honestly confront these things as they present difficulties in our relationship and look at them as opportunities to try to build a common future, because I do think that, as I said in Beijing in the press conference I had with President Jiang and at the university, the forces of history are driving us toward a common future. We have to build a common future. And so it's important that we be able to discuss these things in a open way.
I think all of you did a terrific job today expressing your point of view and also giving my fellow Americans and me a window on modern China. And we thank you very much.
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)