[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[June 30, 1998]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]
Remarks in a Call-In Program on Shanghai Radio 990
June 30, 1998
President Clinton. First of all, I want to thank the mayor for welcoming me to Shanghai, and say I very much
enjoyed my first morning here. We did go to the library, my wife and I
did, and we met with a number of citizens from in and around Shanghai
who are involved in one way or another in China's remarkable
transformation. And they helped us a lot to understand what is going on
I also want to say a word of appreciation to President Jiang for the very good meeting we had in Beijing and for
making it possible for me to reach out to the people of China through
televising our press conference together. And then, of course, I went to
Beijing University yesterday, ``Beida,'' and spoke with the students
there and answered questions. And that was also televised.
And then to be here in Shanghai, one of the very most exciting
places in the entire world, to have the chance to begin my visit here
with this radio program is very exciting. So I don't want to take any
more time. I just want to hear from the questioners and have a
conversation, so that when it's over, perhaps both the American people
and the people of China will understand each other better.
Program Host Zuo Anlong. Mr. President, you
already can see our TV screen--right in front of you there are so many
people waiting in line to talk to you. We're really happy about this.
How about we just start right here, okay?
President Clinton. Let's do it.
Asian Financial Crisis
[The first caller asked about the Asian financial crisis and increasing
cooperation between China and the United States.]
President Clinton. First of all, Mr. Fong, that is a very good
question, and it has occupied a major amount of my time since last year,
when we saw the difficulties developing in Indonesia, in the
Philippines, in Thailand, in Korea, and of course, in Japan.
I would like to begin by saying I believe that China has done a very
good job in holding its currency stable, in trying to be a force of
stability during the Southeast Asian crisis. Secondly, we are working
together, the U.S. and China, and we are working through the IMF to try
to help all these countries stabilize their economies and then restore
But I think the last point I'd like to make is that we cannot see
growth restored in Asia unless it is restored in Japan. Now, in Japan
the people are about to have an election for the upper house of the
Diet, so this is not an easy time for them. But the Government is going
to disclose in the next couple of days what it intends to do in the area
of financial reform.
If it is a good proposal and the confidence of the investors of the
world is raised, then I believe you will see the situation begin to
turn around, and the pressure will be eased in China, and we can see
some economic growth come back to Japan and these other countries. It is
very important to the United States and very important to China. We're
working hard on it.
[Mr. Zuo noted that China was working hard not to devalue its currency,
and then asked Mayor Xu Kuangdi of Shanghai about
trade between the U.S. and Shanghai. Mayor Xu noted that trade with the
U.S. was up 30 percent in the first 5 months of the year, with imports
and exports fairly balanced because Shanghai imported a lot of U.S.
high-tech products, and he said he hoped that would continue. The next
caller, an employee of the Shanghai Library which the President had
toured, asked about increasing exchanges between American libraries and
the Shanghai Library.]
China-U.S. Library Cooperation
President Clinton. Well, first of all, I think that we need to make
sure that all of our major libraries are connected through the Internet,
so that we can ship information back and forth over the Internet that is
not available in the libraries themselves. For example, if you had total
Internet connection with the New York Public Library, which is our
largest public library, then there would be things that you have they
don't have, but you could send them over the Internet. There would be
things that they have that you don't have that could be shared.
So what I will do, since you have asked this question, is, when I
get home, I will ask the people who are in charge of our major
libraries, the Library of Congress, which is the biggest library in
Washington, DC--it's our national library--and the New York Public
Library, and perhaps one or two others, to get in touch with the
Shanghai Library and see whether we can establish a deeper partnership.
I was very impressed that the Shanghai Library has 300,000 members
who actually pay the annual membership fee, 10 yuan. And I think that--
we have many people using our libraries, too. I would also like to
figure out, if I might, how these big libraries in America and China can
better serve the small libraries in the rural areas, where people are so
hungry for information and they don't have as much as we do, those of us
who live in the bigger areas. So I will work on this.
[Mr. Zuo agreed on the importance of library outreach to rural areas.]
President Clinton. But as you know, you now have the computers with
the Internet hookups, and if you have printers there, then people all
over China can order articles out of the Shanghai Library and just print
them out on the computer. So that all you have to have now is a hookup
with a printer in the small libraries, in the smallest villages, and
anything in the Shanghai Library can be sent to them. Of course, it's
more expensive if it's a book. But if it's just an article, it's easy to
print out, takes just a couple of minutes.
[Mayor Xu discussed the challenge of getting computer technology out to
the countryside, noting that a lot of people there still had no
electricity. He also pointed out that Shanghai Library memberships
funded only 5 percent of the library budget and that the government made
up a lot of the rest, but that he was willing to do so because
investment in education was important. Another caller then noted that
both the President and Mayor Xu had a history of involvement with
education issues and asked them to discuss the future of China-U.S.
President Clinton. Well, first of all, let me say that we are
working very hard in America to make sure that more of our own people go
on to university and also acquire the skills necessary to operate in the
computer age. So, I have worked very hard to open the doors of
universities to more people, to make sure that the cost of the education
is not a bar to people going.
Now, in addition to that, we want to promote more exchanges of
students. I want more American students to go to other places in the
world, including China, to study, to learn the language, to learn the
culture, to understand the nation. And I very much want to bring even
more students from around the world to the United States to study. So
perhaps there's something we can do coming out of this trip, the
mayor and I, to have more exchanges with people
from the Shanghai area, because I believe it's very important. And I
think it will only grow more important as we move into this new century.
[Mayor Xu agreed, noting that education in Shanghai was more universal
than elsewhere in
China. He said 60 percent of high school graduates in Shanghai got into
colleges, and he wanted to utilize radio, television, and adult
education to make up the 40 percent gap. The mayor then discussed
approaches to education, noting that the Chinese stressed more
discipline, which was good for order but could discourage open
interaction, whereas American classrooms allowed for more freedom, which
in the opinion of Chinese educators created chaos. The mayor said both
approaches had value, and the two countries should learn from each
President Clinton. Well, actually, here's a case where I think we
would greatly benefit from working together, because there is no perfect
system. If you just start with the issue of discipline, we know that
without a certain amount of discipline and order in the classroom, it's
impossible for learning to occur. We also know if there is too much
order, where everything is structured, the child may close up and not be
open to information and to learning. So we have tried all kinds of
In our country, for example, now many of our schools are going back
to an older practice of requiring the students to wear uniforms every
day, as is the case in many other countries, on the theory that it makes
people more disciplined. It also gives a spirit of equality. This is
sweeping our country, really, and doing very well. On the other hand, we
want enough freedom in the classroom so that the children have the
confidence they need to participate in the class discussion.
Now, on the second matter, which I think is very important, does
education emphasize drilling information into the head of the student,
or should it emphasize sort of creative or critical thinking? I think
the answer is, clearly, both. How can you be a creative thinker if you
don't know something in the first place? First, you must know what you
need to know. You must have the information.
On the other hand, if you look at how fast things are changing--in
this information age, the volume of facts in the world is doubling every
5 years. That's a stunning thing. The volume of information is doubling
every 5 years. Therefore, it's very important not only what you know
today but what you are capable of learning and whether you can apply
what you know to solving new problems.
So I think what we need is a careful balance between making sure our
students have the bedrock information without which you can't make those
decisions, but also learn to be creative in the way you think to deal
with the exploding information of the world.
[Mayor Xu agreed on the need for a new consensus on concepts of
education. He cited an example of Chinese parents, accustomed to the
methods of Chinese education, who were dissatisfied with visiting
American high school teachers because the teachers did not give enough
President Clinton. But, to be fair, we need more exchanges, too,
because what sometimes happens in America is, if you don't have pretty
high standards for measuring whether everybody knows what they should
know, then the very best students may do better under our system and
they go on and win the Nobel Prizes or they create the new companies,
but we leave too many behind because we don't make sure they know.
So I think there's something we have to learn from each other, and
we really should work on this. Because every advanced society--the
Japanese could join with us in this; the Russians could join with us in
this. We all have the same interests here in finding the right balance
in our educational systems.
[Mr. Zuo asked if investment in education could be justified despite the
long payback period.]
President Clinton. Well, it is a long payback period but it has the
highest payback of any investment. If you invest in a child's
education--maybe they're 5 years old when they start, and maybe they're
in their early twenties when they get out of university--that's a long
time. And you have to hire all these teachers along the way and pay for
all the laboratory facilities and all that. But there's nothing more
important. And then the young person gets out into a world in which
ideas create wealth and gives back to society many times over.
So people shouldn't look at it just as one person investing in
another. It ought to be China investing in its future, the United States
investing in its future, together investing in a peaceful, stable,
Education, ideas, information--they give us the capacity to lift
people out of poverty and to lift people out of the ignorance that make
them fight and kill each other and to give us an understanding about how
to solve the environmental problems of the world, which are great. This
is worth investing in. It's more important than everything else. Yes, it
takes a long time to pay out in the life of one child, but the payouts
for a country are almost immediate.
[Mr. Zuo agreed and suggested that in China-U.S. relations there must be
investment for the future. Another caller then asked the President which
sports he liked to play when he was in college, how he maintained his
energy at work, and which soccer team he thought would win the World
Mr. Zuo. Oh yes, so many questions. You threw a lot of questions at
him all at once.
President Clinton. Well, when I was in college, I liked to play
basketball, which is very popular in America, and I liked to jog. I have
jogged--I am a runner, you know, and I did that for most of the last
almost 30 years. Then about a year and half ago, I hurt my leg, and I
couldn't run for several months. And I began to work on the
Stairmaster--you know, it's the machine--you find them in a lot of these
gyms--you walk up and down stairs. And I do that quite a lot now because
it's quicker than running. And I play golf. I like golf very much. It's
my favorite sport. Even though it doesn't burn a lot of calories, it
makes my mind calm, so I like it.
Now, on the World Cup, it's hard for me to predict. I will say this,
the World Cup is now becoming important to Americans in the way it's
important to other countries, because soccer came rather late to America
because we had football and basketball. Now, more and more of our
children are playing soccer. And I think the World Cup is a great way of
bringing people together. You know, the United States has been estranged
from Iran for a long time, but we had this great soccer game and they
beat us fair and square--it was heartbreaking for Americans, but they
won a great, fascinating soccer match, and they eliminated us from the
I'm not an expert in soccer, but I think the Brazilians are always
hard to beat. I've watched them play a lot, and they're very good.
[Mr. Zuo asked about ``soccer diplomacy'' in the context of the Iran-
U.S. World Cup competition.]
President Clinton. I think it could be possible. The Iranians like
wrestling very much, and we have exchanged wrestling team visits. And
they treated our American wrestlers with great respect and friendship,
which meant a great deal to me. And then we were honored to receive
So I think--the new President of Iran
seems to be committed to not only lifting the economic and social
conditions of his people but also having a more regular relationship
with the rest of the world, in accordance with international law and
basically just conditions of good partnership. So I'm hoping that more
will come out of this.
But I think Americans were riveted by the soccer game. And they were
impressed, because we were supposed to win the game and we had lots of
chances and our players played very well. They played very well; they
had lots of chances; they could have scored eight times or something.
But the Iranians had two fast breaks, and they played with such passion.
And they had those two chances, and they capitalized on both of them.
And we respect that. It was very good.
Automobiles and the Environment
[The next caller asked Mayor Xu if Shanghai's encouragement of private
cars would make traffic conditions worse and contribute to environmental
pollution. Mayor Xu responded that the city government had not
encouraged private car ownership but had simply relaxed regulations
related to it because Shanghai's growth had caused many to require
transportation into the city from outlying areas. He acknowledged the
need to focus on public transportation systems, develop a better
understanding of roadway management, use unleaded gasoline, and require
Mr. Zuo. Even though Mr. President is here, look at this--some of
the people here are still interested in asking questions of the mayor
about their city, because they're interested and they're excited.
President Clinton. Well, they should be. I mean, that's a very basic
I would like to comment on one thing the questioner asked, because I
was impressed that he is concerned that if everyone has a private car,
the air pollution will grow worse. Let me say, this is a big problem
everywhere in the world. But I once told President Jiang, I said, my
biggest concern is that China will get rich in exactly the same way
America got rich. But you have 4 times as many people, so no one will be
able to breathe because the air pollution will be bad.
Now, one of the things that you need to know is that when a car, an
automobile, burns gasoline, about 80 percent of the heat value of the
gasoline is lost in the inefficiency of the engine. But they are now
developing new engines, called fuel injection engines, where the fuel
goes directly into the engine and it is about 4 times more efficient. So
I hope that within a matter of just a few years, in the U.S., in China,
and throughout the world, all these engines will be much, much less
polluting. And that will be very good for the health of the people of
China and for the health of world environment.
Mayor Xu. Correct. That's a good thing. We
right now are in the process of thinking about natural gas, LNG, that
is, using it for cars, for taxis----
President Clinton. Very good.
Mayor Xu. ----for buses. And at the same time, even for personal
motorcycles, we're thinking of making them electric instead of gasoline.
[Mr. Zuo suggested that China's automobile policy should suit conditions
President Clinton. Absolutely. I think, for one thing, you should be
much more disciplined than we were about making sure you have good,
high-quality mass transit, because in the cities where we have good mass
transit, people use it. So if you have good mass transit, then I think
people should be free to have cars, and it's a nice thing to have, but
they won't have to drive them so much and you won't have the pollution
Then I think the city, as the mayor said, can set a good example.
You can have electric vehicles; you can have natural gas vehicles. And
then, as I said, within a few years, I believe all of us will be driving
cars that, even if they use gasoline, will be much, much more efficient.
Otherwise, if we don't do these things, the air pollution will be
terrible, and it will create public health problems that will cost far
more than the benefits of the automobile. You don't want that. And you
can avoid it. You can avoid the mistakes we made with technology and
Educational and Scientific Cooperation
[The next caller said that while studying in America for a 10-month
period, he had noticed American teachers' confusion about the Chinese
dialects of Mandarin and Cantonese. He asked about encouraging better
understanding, cooperation, and interaction between the two nations.]
President Clinton. Well, first of all, I perfectly agree with you. I
think that this is a very important point. That's why I came to China.
That's why I am very pleased that the press conference I had with
President Jiang was televised, and why I did a
question-and-answer session at Beijing University yesterday, and why I'm
doing this today. I think that we need more of this.
And as I said to an earlier caller, when I go home I intend to see
what I can do about sending more Americans to China and trying to make
it possible for more Chinese to come to America. Because the more we do
these things, the more we will be able to work through our differences
and build a common future. And, besides that, it will make life more
interesting and more fun.
[The next caller asked about China-U.S. cooperation in science and
President Clinton. We have had for many years a U.S.-China science
and technology forum--[inaudible]--some research that has helped us to
predict extreme weather events. And it has helped us to predict the
coming of earthquakes.
We have also had scientific research which has helped us to uncover
the cause of a condition in newborn babies, called spina bifida, that is
caused in part by the mother's having not enough folic acid. And that
has helped us to have more healthy children. My wife yesterday--2 days ago talked to a mother whose first
child was born with this condition, and the second child was born
perfectly normal because of the research done by our people together.
So we have made a commitment, President Jiang
and I, to identify other areas where we will do more work. And if you or
anyone listening to this program, if you have any ideas, you
ought to send them to this station or the mayor; they will send them on
to me--because I think we should do more science research together.
Response to President's Visit
[A questioner asked if the President would be able to convince people
who opposed his visit that he had done the right thing.]
President Clinton. I believe that what the American people have seen
already--that our media has reported back on my meeting with President
Jiang, and the press conference, yesterday, the
meeting with the students; today, the meeting with the citizens before I
came over here, and this--it clearly shows that whatever differences we
have in our systems and the differences of opinion we have about what
human rights policy ought to be, what the scope of freedom of religion
ought to be, any of these differences, that we still have a lot in
common, and by working on the things we have in common we may also come
to an understanding about how to manage our differences. And I believe
that the forces of history will bring about more convergence in our
societies going forward.
The mayor and I were talking earlier about the
education systems and how, in the end, we need to educate young people
with the same kinds of skills. And I believe, as I have said repeatedly,
that high levels of personal freedom are quite important to the success
of a society in the information age because you need people who feel
free to explore, to state their views, to explore their own convictions,
and then live out their own dreams, and that this will add to the
stability of a society by enriching it. That's what I believe.
And we've been able to have these conversations here. And the
Government and the people of China have been very open. Also, yesterday
the students were very open in asking me some rather probing, difficult
questions. And all of this, I think, is good. So I think the American
people will see when I go home that this was a good thing that I came
here. And it's a good thing that we have a working relationship.
China and the World Trade Organization
[The next caller asked about U.S. influence with regard to China and the
World Trade Organization.]
President Clinton. Yes. First of all, obviously I think it is
important for China to be a member of the World Trade Organization
because China is a major economic power that will grow only larger over
time. Secondly, it should be obvious that we in the United States want
to support China's economic growth. After all, we are by far the largest
purchaser of Chinese exports. No other country comes close to the
percentage of exports that we purchase in the United States. So we
support your growth.
But we believe that when China becomes a member of the WTO, it must
do so on commercially reasonable terms; that is, you must allow access
to your markets, not only of American products but of others as well,
and there should be some open investment opportunities. And all of this
should be done, however, in recognition of the fact that China is still
an emerging economy, so you are entitled to have certain longer
timetables and certain procedural help in this regard.
So what we're trying to do in America is to say, okay, China should
be in the World Trade Organization, but it has to be a commercially
realistic set of understandings when you have memberships, and yet we
owe you the right to a reasonable period of transition as you change
your economy. And I think we'll get there. I think we'll reach an
agreement before long.
[Mayor Xu said he hoped for such an agreement. Mr. Zuo then expressed
his regret that time was running short. He noted that the program was
the first such format the President had participated in outside the U.S.
and asked him for his impressions.]
President Clinton. Well, first of all, I have enjoyed it very much.
I want to thank all the people who called in with their questions and
tell you that I'm sorry we didn't get to answer more questions. But it's
always the way. People everywhere want to engage their leaders in
dialog. And so I thank you for your questions. They were very good ones.
And if I didn't get to answer your question, I'm sorry. But this has
been a historic occasion. And perhaps now when I travel to other
countries, I will ask them if they will do the same thing. This was a
very good idea.
[Mr. Zuo thanked the President, and Mayor Xu then commented that he had
learned a lot from the President. Mr. Zuo closed the program by thanking
the participants and the audience.]
President Clinton. Goodbye. Thank you.
Note: The President spoke at 12:14 p.m. from the studios of Shanghai
Radio, on Zuo Anlong's radio program entitled ``Citizens and Society in
the 1990's.'' The program's topic was ``Moving U.S.-Sino Relations
Forward into the 21st Century.''