Vice Premier Qian Qichen Visits Washington

Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen spoke at a luncheon on March 23 organized by the U.S.–China Business Council, The Nixon Center, the U.S. China–Policy Foundation, and the National Committee on U.S.–China Relations. More than 400 guests attended the event at the Willard Inter-Continental Hotel in Washington. In addition to meeting with President Bush, Vice Premier Qian also consulted top Bush Administration officials: Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Qian also met with members of Congress, business leaders, think tank scholars, and academics.
Three key themes laid out by Qian in his luncheon speech were economic development, U.S.–China cooperation, and reunification with Taiwan.  He stated that because China’s top priority is economic development, “We need an external environment of lasting peace more than anybody else.” He also lauded U.S.–Chinese economic ties, noting that last year bilateral trade reached $74.5 billion and U.S. companies invested more than $30 billion in China. “American businesses are welcome to compete in the huge Chinese market, making friends and money at the same time,” Qian said. He also praised the mutual benefit from cultural exchanges between America and China involving scientists, artists, environmental experts, judges and military officers.

Qian stressed the need for Sino–U.S. cooperation on issues affecting both nations, such as weapons proliferation, the environment, terrorism, drug trafficking, and reform of the United Nations. He declared that “We both want to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and means of their delivery.” In response to a question, Qian said that China favors a denuclearized Korean peninsula. “We hope all countries strengthen peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” he maintained.

Qian emphasized that China wants an early Chinese reunification, which will strengthen U.S.–China relations and promote peace in the Asia-Pacific region and the world.  He asserted bluntly that “The Taiwan question holds the key to a healthy China–U.S. relationship.” He called on Taiwan to recognize the one-China principle, assuring it that under the “one country, two systems” formula Taiwan would retain political autonomy, including the right to its own military, judicial independence, and the power of final adjudication. The root cause of tension in the Taiwan Straits, Qian believes, is the separatist movements in Taiwan.  Because the Taiwan issue is the result of China’s civil war and foreign interference, the Chinese people must solve it themselves, without foreign intervention.

In response to a question, Qian labeled U.S. arms sales to Taiwan as illegitimate on grounds that Taiwan is a part of the sovereign Chinese state. He said such sales are like pouring oil over a spark, which leads to a great flame. “We don’t want to see the flame of war there,” Qian said.

While responding to another question, Qian expressed his hope that the Taiwanese government will be bold enough to further cultural contacts across the Taiwan Strait. He reported that last year a record high three million Taiwanese visited the mainland. Direct and indirect trade reached more than $30 billion, despite the fact that no official direct trade links yet exist between the mainland and Taiwan. Qian assured the audience that the mainland would be willing to institute the “three links” with Taiwan, referring to trade, transportation and postal service, but Taiwan has yet to agree to do so.
While mentioning various areas of common interest between China and the United States, Qian also noted that differences exist not only in economic development, but in the history and culture of the two countries. He said,  “it is essential to respect each other, enhance mutual understanding, increase mutual trust, and remove obstacles.”

Qian characterized the state of human rights in China as the best in the nation’s history. In the last two decades China has seen 200 million people raised from poverty. Qian noted the plethora of newspapers, periodicals, and radio shows in China. He also stated that China has more than 80 million mobile phone subscribers and 20 million people have access to the Internet. Qian maintained that China recognizes freedom of religion and reported that more than 100 million Chinese profess some particular faith. However, he lambasted the Falun Gong, which he said is not a religion but a cult that “ruins families and human lives.”

Referring to democracy, freedom, and human rights as “the common pursuit of humanity,” Qian argued that  “countries differ from one another,” and must therefore treat each other with mutual respect, find common ground, put aside differences and avoid confrontation.

In a closing note Qian stated, “We sincerely hope to increase mutual understanding and expand common ground with the U.S. side through dialogue on an equal footing.”

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