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President Bush's Trip to China

President Bush's Trip to China

President Bush visited China this February as part of a six-day tour of East Asia. Although no significant breakthroughs occurred, both governments expressed satisfaction with the visit. The trip was a working visit for President Bush, and while in Beijing, the two Presidents met for a lengthy discussion. Early on, President Bush raised the topic of terrorism, praising China's cooperation in the war against terror. In response President Jiang again expressed his support for anti-terrorist actions. The two Presidents also had an extensive discussion of religious freedom in which Bush encouraged Jiang to open dialogues with religious leaders. President Bush and President Jiang also discussed arms proliferation, implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement, their policies towards North Korea, and areas for bilateral cooperation such as energy and health. The talks were fairly friendly, and in public both leaders avoided direct criticism of each other, playing down sharp differences. The two leaders strengthened their personal ties, something Jiang has advocated as a supporter of "Great Power Diplomacy."

On his final day in Beijing, President Bush gave a speech at Tsinghua University. The speech was broadcast live throughout China and without censorship, an unprecedented occurrence for any American leader in China. In his speech, the president addressed what he considered to be a common misunderstanding of America. He attempted to clarify American values, saying "Our liberty is given direction and purpose by moral character, shaped in strong families, strong communities, and strong religious institutions, and overseen by a strong and fair legal system." Bush also expressed his admiration for China's amazing progress. He noted the drastic changes which had occurred since he had last been there in 1975. Bush praised China's openness, enterprise, and economic freedom, declaring it a preview of the country's great potential. Bush also said he looked forward to the day when China would expand democratic elections and hold them at the national level. After his speech, President Bush took questions from the audience. Several students questioned Bush about the Taiwan issue, asking for clarification of the phrase "peaceful settlement." One student wondered why he never referred to the eventual "peaceful reunification" of the issue. In response, Bush reiterated his support for the one-China policy, and expressed his desire that a peaceful resolution be agreed upon by both parties.

Bush's frank discussion with Jiang Zemin, and his candid interaction with the students of Tsinghua University clearly substantiated the validity of President Bush's reference to the "mature relationship" between China and the U.S. As Bush's second visit to China this year, the trip also underlines the importance of the bilateral relationship and its significance in the eyes of the Bush administration.


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