Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.
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Biographic Sketch & Links: Henry J. Hyde
[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge a generous contribution, with a
written permission, of this speech given by the Hon Henry Hyde, Chairman, Committee on Interntional
Relations, U S House of Representatives, at Tsinghua University. This is a kind gift of the Chairman Hyde to ICAS. : sjk]|
The Honorable Henry J. Hyde, Chairman
Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
December 10, 2002
The subject of my remarks today is the relationship between the United States and China, both in the present day and in the future. My intention is to speak plainly because I believe that clarity and directness are essential elements in the establishment and maintenance of good relations between our two countries. I would also like to say that, although my responsibilities are, of necessity, focused on the interests of the United States, and although I would not presume to speak for China, my statements and thoughts regarding your country are done in the context of great respect and a sincere affection for its people and are made in the knowledge that we will share this planet for a long time to come.
Let me begin with a simple and obvious statement. China's rapidly growing strength and influence in the world community will be one of the central determinants of the evolution of the 21st Century.
Let me add to that another self-evident statement: No one knows what these changes will mean for relations between our two countries.
To admit our lack of knowledge is not to confess that we are helpless, nor must we resign ourselves to an unpredictable fate. It is, in fact, a recognition of the exact opposite. For although we must find our way through a maze of possibilities, and contend with suspicion and the uncertainties of many surprises, our relationship will in fact be the result of the choices we jointly make. We will not be able to proclaim our innocence or ignorance, nor pretend that it is not we who have decided it so.
For over two decades, the world has watched as China's long-postponed rush toward modernization has gathered momentum. Rapid change has become the rule in every sphere of national life, from the economic and political to the social and cultural. And with every accomplishment has come ever more expanded possibilities and the enhanced capacity to make them real.
This transformation is unparalleled in scale and has rarely been equaled in ambition or speed. The change is so great and so rapid that, to those observing it from the outside, it seems as though the entire country is living through a revolution. It is as if we were watching a new world coming into being. I can hardly imagine how it must seem to those who are experiencing these changes directly.
Whatever its ultimate outcome may prove to be, the result cannot but have a major impact on the world. It is appropriate, then, that we ponder its consequences for relations between our two countries.
I single out our relationship not merely because I am an American speaking to a Chinese audience, but because the relationship between the United States and China is already one of the most important on the planet. And it may one day become the most important.
Let me begin with the present. Our two countries start from very different places, different experiences, different expectations. China has been inward-turned for much of the last century, and only recently has it begun to resume a greater role in the international system to which its prominence and accomplishments entitle it. That international system is one in which the United States has been the principal actor for over half a century and for which it has assumed the principal responsibility for defending.
The United States has done more than simply exercise influence, however. It has fundamentally reshaped that system into one which I believe has brought unprecedented prosperity, peace, and security to many regions of the world. Europe has been transformed from a war-ravaged continent of implacable hatreds into one where peace, cooperation, and prosperity are now regarded as natural conditions requiring little effort to maintain. A similar, although less complete, transformation has taken place in East Asia, where the increasingly prosperous, peaceful, and cooperative region of today - one that I am pleased to say is also populated by an ever-growing number of democracies - stands in dramatic contrast to that of the 1930s and 1940s.
To speak of this transformation is not to arrogate to the United States the sole credit for its unfolding. Ultimately, the fate of each country has to be decided by that country itself, for prosperity and stability cannot be granted by another, nor long imposed. The key contribution of the United States has been to help bring into being and maintain over many decades the nurturing international and regional contexts which have allowed these beneficent changes to take place. Without this, those changes would have been exceedingly difficult to accomplish, if they could have been accomplished at all.
I admit to viewing these and other developments from an American perspective, but I believe it to be a true, honest, and accurate one nonetheless. And I believe that it is a record in which my country should take great pride.
By virtue of its strength and its role in the international system, then, to deal with the international system is to deal with the United States.
For China, the present-day international system is largely one in which it has played little role in constructing. This is especially important when one remembers that for a long time, the Chinese people suffered the injustice of being acted on by outside powers who were indifferent to their rights and well-being and often openly hostile to both. As a result of China's weakness, war was forced upon them, along with great suffering and destruction.
China's growing strength has meant that a return to that period of weakness is ever-receding. And China is now expanding its presence in the international system, this time not on the terms of others, but on those of its own and guided by its own interests.
Given this, how likely is it that, in the future, China's foreign policy goals will differ significantly from those of the United States? This is not an abstract question, as there are several areas in which the U.S. and China have overlapping interests, including Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Russia's vast expanse. But the most salient of these is East Asia, where the United States has exercised a preponderant influence since World War II and where China is now beginning to reassert her own.
Both countries profess to having the same goals for the region, namely continued peace, stability, cooperation, and prosperity. If this is in fact the case, China is entering a system in which those interests are already ensured. Thus, in theory, China's increasing presence should produce little change beyond an increasing prominence in the region's councils. Why, then, do so many voices in both countries assume that, fundamentally, the two countries are strategic rivals and destined to clash, with the increase in influence by one necessitating a diminution in that of the other?
It is certainly true that those planning for a nation's security and defending its interests have a responsibility to consider all possibilities, both positive and negative, and to make reasonable preparations for an uncertain future. But we must remember that these are just that - possibilities - and not pre-ordained outcomes. Unless, that is, we begin acting as though they are. But neither can good relations be built on hopeful illusions, for these will inevitably be exposed as such.
Security must be our starting point. Only in the knowledge that one has truly secured one's interests is trust then possible, and it will remain as fragile as a single misperception.
But these necessary preparations pose a danger of their own, which is that one country will view the other's reasonable precautions as evidence of hostile intent. As I stated at the outset of my remarks, there is only one way to avoid that outcome, and that is to ensure that there is an ongoing and frank discussion of each country's goals and rationales. Far from avoiding frankness out of a fear of offending, we should instead recognize it for what it is - the prerequisite for good relations.
Assuming a genuine desire on both sides, the list of areas where cooperation can produce mutually beneficial results is as long as we would wish to make it, including such newly urgent areas as terrorism and the need to limit the further spread of weapons and instruments of mass destruction. As a sign of the need for increased cooperation regarding shared dangers, I am very pleased to note that the United States' Agency for International Development has inaugurated a new and innovative program in China that is designed to help your country cope with the growing problem of AIDS. We in the United States and the world have faced this implacable epidemic for many years, and we hope by our assistance to help you avoid many of the tragedies experienced elsewhere in the world.
A subject that is of immediate concern is North Korea. The dangers posed by the despotic and seemingly irrational regime in North Korea require action on our part, but a workable scenario has yet to be identified. The regime's recent admission that, contrary to its agreements, it has continued to develop nuclear and other weapons has demonstrated the bankruptcy of our previous approach even as this revelation has generated a new urgency of its own. Added to that is the question of what we should do regarding that country's continuing economic collapse, ranging from the humanitarian impulse to feed millions faced with starvation to the many dangers that would be posed by the regime's chaotic end.
Previously, it is likely that the United States would have assumed the sole responsibility for handling this problem. But our hope and expectation is that, given its considerable influence with Pyongyang, your government's active cooperation will be forthcoming in developing and implementing a satisfactory solution. The incentives to do so already exist and are growing. As you are well aware, China has begun to directly experience the first tremors of this approaching earthquake, as seen in the increasing number of refugees fleeing from North Korea and the problems this has created in China's relations with the international community.
The areas of potential cooperation are easy to identify. Where, then, do the problems lie?
Here, even a short list must inevitably seem a lengthy one. Among the most prominent are trade disputes, protection for intellectual property, human rights concerns, and arms sales. These problems are the source of numerous daily frictions that, over time, can wear away the firmest foundation. Significant differences intrude even in those areas in which we have already recognized a need to cooperate, such as terrorism.
Each of these issues could be the subject of an extensive discussion. Let me briefly comment on three that are likely to persist.
The first concerns trade. Here, there are many disputes. China's adaptation to a market economy and its entry into the World Trade Organization pose many challenges of their own.
One of the most pressing is that of intellectual property rights. I am concerned that China is not in compliance with its international obligations and that its WTO membership has yet to have much influence on the production of counterfeit goods. That market is estimated by China's own officials to be worth at least $16 billion, making up between 15 and 20 percent of all products made in China.
Often unnoted, but surely a concern of the not-too-distant future, is the United States' growing trade deficit with China, already the largest in history and amounting to more than half a trillion dollars over the last two decades. China's modernization simply could not have proceeded at its remarkable pace without this source of capital and our determination to keep our markets open. My hope is that China will demonstrate a similar resolve.
Of course, the United States receives many benefits from our increasingly close economic relationship, as does China, but we must understand that disputes are likely to increase, not decrease, as our two economies draw closer. A joint commitment to the rules of free trade and to the obligations undertaken by international agreement is the only way to ensure that these remain manageable. Each country has an enormous and growing stake in the continued economic health of the other and a joint interest in the preservation of the international economic system that makes possible continued growth and mutual prosperity.
A more difficult aspect of our relationship is the subject of human rights. As Americans, we believe that the principles on which our country was founded are universal, and that they are inherent rights for Americans and non-Americans alike. To hold these beliefs is also to believe that one cannot be indifferent to events in other countries. Human rights abuses are a violation of our common humanity, wherever they occur.
Some declare that, regardless of our motives, this is an unacceptable interference by the U.S. in the affairs of other countries. A more sinister motivation is often imputed, including a depiction of our actions and statements in purely cynical terms as the means for sowing discord and opposition within our competitors.
One thing is absolutely certain: The United States - its people and its government - will continue to make human rights a prominent component of its foreign policy, regardless of what the practitioners of Realpolitik would advise. It would be a profound mistake to conclude that these are irrelevant concerns for us or that we will desist from expressing our concern about them.
Of course, the problem with the greatest potential for misunderstanding, and even for potential conflict, is Taiwan. I do not raise this subject because I believe that I can persuade anyone in this audience to change their opinion. Nor do I believe that I can propose a mutually satisfying solution on such an important issue. There may, in fact, not be one. If true, that in itself would be an important recognition and one that we should face directly.
Our differing positions on this issue are a matter of record. But if we are to avoid making decisions that we will regret, it is important that we fully understand each other's position, regardless of how much we may disagree with it. The need for clarity is greatest in those situations in which disagreement is sharpest.
Many in China, sensitive to what they regard as a long series of foreign intrusions on Chinese soil, understandably view the situation regarding Taiwan from this perspective. Close U.S. ties with the island are regarded as inherently negative and incompatible with a positive relationship between our two countries. With an eye toward reducing misperceptions, let me briefly address some views of the problem that can easily distort judgments.
I am aware that some in your country depict our long-term involvement in Taiwan as motivated by its role in what is imagined to be an American policy of "containing" China. However, I must point out that there are no U.S. military bases on the island, nor am I aware of any plans, public or private, on our part to use the island as an element in any larger plan of domination of the region. To the contrary, our energies and hopes are focused on a peaceful resolution of the many issues involved.
I am also aware that some in your country have accused the U.S. of wanting to partition China as a way of dealing with what it supposedly views as a growing strategic challenge. Yet I am unaware of anyone at any level of our government who has advanced this as a goal, even as a basis for an abstract discussion. I have no hesitation in dismissing it as absurd.
Nor is the United States motivated by any predatory economic interests. Although our economic ties to the island are very strong, those with the PRC are even stronger and are growing ever more so. Because we have a fundamental belief in free markets and in an open trading system, we understand that there is nothing to be gained by attempting to wall off for ourselves protected markets or privileged access to any country.
Our fundamental tie to Taiwan is more substantial than these supposed motivations. We are both democracies.
After many years and great struggle, the people on Taiwan have established a stable and vibrant democracy. This is not a foreign system imposed by an outside power. It is the product of decades of effort by the Taiwanese people themselves.
Taiwan's achievement is praiseworthy for many reasons, perhaps the most important being the simple fact that it has become a true and functioning democracy, one in which peaceful transfers of power as the result of elections - the ultimate proof of a functioning democracy - are a demonstrated reality.
But it has a significance that extends far beyond its own shores. Because it is a Chinese democracy. I can well remember when such a thing was prophesied to be an impossibility, when the received wisdom was that democracy and Chinese culture could never be combined, that both would be forever foreign to the other.
But Taiwan's experience has demonstrated that that view was simply mistaken and without merit. There need be no cultural barriers to the spread of democracy, and peoples in countries whose histories have no record of democracy can, nevertheless, achieve it for themselves.
This is a simple message, yet one of profound importance for the entire world. It is one of special significance for Americans, for as I have stated previously, we believe that the principles upon which our country are founded are universal ones.
As Americans, we also believe ourselves to be the natural friend and even protector of democracies around the world. Our experience in the last century has been such that we instinctively align ourselves with democracies around the world and understand that our fates are bound together.
For that reason, Taiwan's attainment of real democracy has established a deep and enduring bond between it and the United States. I know from personal experience that the bedrock of the very strong support for Taiwan in the U.S. Congress is that of shared democracy. And I know that that support will continue undimished.
This list of our areas of agreement and disagreement is not an exhaustive one, but it is certainly illustrative of the many substantive issues with which we must deal.
It is essential to both of our countries, as well as to the wider world, that we get this relationship right. But we cannot allow our hopes to displace sober analysis. Good relations will not be handed to us as a gift or as a reward for virtue. They are something that we must construct ourselves, by conscious choice from the options before us. That sounds deceptively simple - who, after all, would not want good relations? But the great danger we face is to assume that a positive outcome is easy to achieve, and that it is foreordained simply because it is necessary and desirable.
Instead, we should begin by realizing that it is not a single, grand, final choice that we need to make but a never-ending series of choices that must be made while passing through an uncharted terrain of difficult tasks, easy temptations, and the enveloping fog of suspicion.
Although we cannot escape from the incessant demands of the ever-shouting present, neither can we allow these to deafen us to the softer voice of our long-term interests. For it is only with the counsel of the latter that we can hope to guide ourselves to safety and security.
In January 1979, Deng Xiaoping made an historic visit to the United States. When he came to Washington, he chose to lay a wreath at the memorial of our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln. Because I am from Illinois, which claims a special connection with Lincoln, I was invited to stand as a member of the Honor Guard for the occasion.
It is appropriate to refer to Mr. Lincoln. In his first inaugural address, facing the prospect of civil war, he posed the issue in direct terms, appealing to his countrymen north and south to remember their many bonds and enduring interests and warning them that to allow these to be obscured by the passions of the present would be to bring down certain destruction upon themselves and their country.
They did not heed his words, and the conflict he worked so hard to prevent nevertheless came.
We must always remind ourselves that our fate is not handed to us; we create it for ourselves. We are not the passive citizens of history; we are its architects.
Your country has endured for over 5000 years, ours for little more than two centuries. Vast differences separate us, yet in the end, will it be said that our two peoples were so different that their true interests ultimately had to clash?
If we are adversaries, we can do little to improve the lives and fortunes of our countrymen, to say nothing of those of East Asia and the world beyond. We would be certain to discover how easy it is to do harm to us all. But if we can sustain cooperation, if our common interests can be made to encompass our differences, the realm of the possible would extend beyond measure, and we shall grace our age with wonders.