Monday, July 13, 1998
Vol. 34, No. 28
Remarks to the business community in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,
William J Clinton
�� July 3,1998
� Thank you very much. To Jeff Muir, and Victor Fong, thank you
both for your fine remarks and for hosting me. I thank all the
members of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the American
Chamber of Commerce for making this forum available, and so many of
you for coming out on this morning for what will be my last public
speech, except for my press conference, which the members of the
press won't permit to become a speech, before I go home.
�� It has been a remarkable trip for my wife and family and for the
Senate delegation and members of our Cabinet and White House. And we
are pleased to be ending it here.
� I want to say a special word of appreciation to Secretary Albright
and Secretary Daley, to Senator Rockefeller, Senator Baucus, Senator
Akaka, Congressman Dingell, Congressman Hamilton, Congressman Markey,
and the other members of the administration and citizens who have
accompanied me on this very long and sometimes exhausting but
ultimately, I believe, very productive trip for the people of the
United States and the people of China.
� I'm glad to be back in Hong Kong. As I told Chief Executive Tung
and the members of the dinner party last night, I actuallyI may be
the first sitting President to come to Hong Kong, but this is my
fourth triphere. I was able to come three times before, once with
Hillary, in the period which we now refer to as back when we had a
life-[laughter]-before I became President. And I look forward to
coming again in the future.
� I think it's quite appropriate for our trip to end in Hong Kong,
because, for us Americans, Hong Kong is China's window on the world.
I have seen remarkable changes taking place in China, and since the
possibilities of its future-much of which clearly is and for some
time has been visible here in Hong Kong, with its free and open
markets and its vibrant entrepreneurial atmosphere.
� Devoid of natural resources, Hong Kong always has had to fall back
on the most important resource of all, its people. The
entrepreneurs, the artists, the visionaries, the hardworking,
everyday people have accomplished things that have made the whole
world marvel. Hong Kong people have dreamed, designed, and built
some of the world's tallest buildings and longest bridges. When Hong
Kong ran out of land, the people simply went to the sea and got more.
To the average person from a landlocked place, that seems quite
� I thank you for giving me a chance to come here today to talk
about the relationship between the United States and all of Asia. I
have had a great deal of time to emphasize the importance of our
future ties with China, and I would like to reiterate them today and
mention some of the points that the two previous speakers made. But
I would like to put it in the context of the entire region. And
after all, it is the entire region that has been critical to the
success of Hong Kong.
� We have a fundamental interest in promoting stability and
prosperity in Asia. Our future is tied to Asia's. A large and
growing percentage of our exports, our imports, and our investments
involve Asian nations. As President, besides this trip to China, I
have been to Japan, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, and
Thailand, with more to come. I have worked with the region's leaders
on economic, political, and security issues. The recent events in
South Asia, in Indonesia, in financial markets all across the region
remind the American people just how very closely our future is tied
� Over the course of two centuries, the United States and Asian
nations have built a vast, rich, complex, dynamic relationshipforged
in the beginning by trade, strained on occasion by misunderstanding,
tempered by three wars in living memory, enriched by the free flow of
ideas, ideals, and culture. Now, clearly, at the dawn of the 21st
century, our futures are inextricably bound togetherbound by a mutual
interest in seeking to free future generations from the specter of
war. As I said, Americans can remember three wars we have fought in
Asia. We must make it our mission to avoid another.
� The cornerstone of our security in Asia remains our relationship
of longstanding with five key democratic allies: Japan, South Korea,
Australia, Thailand, the Philippines. Our military presence in Asia
is essential to that stability, in no small measure because everyone
knows we have no territorial ambitions of any kind.
� Nowhere is this more evident than on the Korean Peninsula, where
still every day, after 40 years, 40,000 American troops patrol a
border that has known war and could know war again. We clearly have
an interest in trying to get a peace on the Korean Peninsula. We
will continue to work with China to advance our efforts in the
four-party talks, to encourage direct and open dialog between North
and South Korea, to faithfully implement the agreement with North
Korea to end their nuclear weapons program, and to insist that North
Korea do the same.
� I am encouraged by the openness and the energy of South Korea's
new leader, Kim Dae-jung. Last month, in an address to our Congress,
he said, "It is easier to get a passerby to take off his coat with
sunshine than with a strong wind."
� Of course, our security is also enormously enhanced by a positive
partnership with a prosperous, stable, increasingly open China,
working with us, as we are, on the challenges of South Asian nuclear
issues, the financial crisis in the region, the Korean peace effort,
� Our oldest ties to Asia are those of trade and commerce, and now
they've evolved into some of our strongest. The fur pelts and
cottons our first traders bought here more than 200 years ago have
given way to software and medical instruments. Hong Kong is now
America's top consumer for cell phones. Today, roughly a third of
our exports and 4 million jobs depend on our trade to Asia. As was
earlier said, over 1,000 American companies have operations in Hong
Kong alone. And as we've seen in recent months, when markets tremble
in Tokyo or Hong Kong, they cause tremors around the world.
� That is why I have not only sought to ease the Asian economic
difficulties but to institutionalize a regional economic partnership
through the Asian Pacific Economic Council leaders meetings that we
started in Seattle, Washington, in 1993, and which in every year
since has advanced the cause of economic integration and growth in
the region. That is why I'm also working to broaden and deepen our
economic partnership with China and China's integration into the
world economic framework.
� It clearly is evident to anyone who knows about our relationship
that the United States supports China's economic growth through
trade. We, after all, purchase 30 percent of the exports of China,
far more than any other country in the world, far more than our
percentage of the world's GDP.
� We very much want China to be a member of the World Trade
Organization. We understand the enormous challenges that the Chinese
Government faces in privatizing the state industries and doing so at
a rate and in a way which will permit people who lose their jobs in
the state industries to be reintegrated into a changing economy and
have jobs and be able to educate their children, find a place to
live, and succeed in a stable society.
� So the real question with this WTO accession is not whether the
United States wants China in the 'TO. Of course, we do. And the
real question, in fairness to China, is not whether China is willing
to be a responsible international partner in the international
financial system. I believe they are. The question is, how do you
resolve the tension between the openness requirements for investment
and for trade through market access of the WTO with the strains that
are going to be imposed on China anyway as it undertakes to speed up
the economic transition and the change of employment base within its
� We are trying to work these things out. We believe that there
must be an end agreement that contains strong terms that are
commercially reasonable. We understand that China has to have some
transitional consideration because of the challenges at home. I
think we'll work this out. But I want you to understand that we in
the United States very much want China to be a member of the WTO. We
would like it to happen sooner, rather than later, but we understand
that we have not only American but global interests to consider in
making sure that when the whole process is over that the terms are
fair and open and further the objectives of more open trade and
investment across the world.
� I also would say in that connection, I am strongly supporting the
extension of normal trading status, or MFN, to China. I was
encouraged bythe vote in the House Ways and Means Committee shortly
before we left. I hope we will be successful there. I think
anything any of you can do to support the integrity of the existing
obligations that all of us have including and especially in the area
of intellectual property, will be very helpful in that regard in
helping us to move forward.
� In addition to trade and security ties, the United States and Asia
are bound by family ties, perhap s our most vital ones. Seven
million Americans today trace their roots to Asia, and the percentage
of our citizens who are Asian-Americans is growing quite rapidly.
These roots are roots they are eager to renew or rebuild or to keep.
Just last year 3.4 million Americans traveled to Asia; 7.8 million
Asians traveled to the United States. Thousands of young people are
crossing the Pacific to study, and in so doing, building friendships
that will form the foundations of cooperation and peace for the 21st
century. All across the region we see evidence that the values of
freedom and democracy are also burning in the hearts of the people in
the East as well as the West. From Japan to the Philippines, South
Korea to Mongolia, democracy has found a permanent home in Asia.
� As the world becomes smaller, the ties between Asia and the United
States-the political ties, the family ties, the trade ties, the
security ties-they will only become stronger. Consider this one
little statistic: In 1975 there were 33 million minutes of telephone
traffic between the U.S. and Asia; in 1996 there were 4.2 billion
minutes of such traffic, a 127-fold increase. That doesn't count the
Internet growth that is about to occur that will be truly staggering.
�� Now, the result of all this is that you and I in our time have
been given a remarkable opportunity to expand and share the
storehouse of human knowledge, to share the building of wealth, to
share the fights against disease and poverty, to share efforts to
protect the environment, and bridge age-old gaps of history and
culture that have caused too much friction and misunderstanding.
� This may be the greatest moment of actual possibility in human
history. At the same time, the greater openness, the pace of change,
the nature of the global economy, all these things have brought with
them disruption. They create the risk of greater gaps between rich
and poor, between those equipped for the information age and those
who aren't. It means that problems, whether they are economic
problems or environmental problems, that begin in one country can
quickly spread beyond that country's borders. It means that we're
all more vulnerable in a more open atmosphere to security threats
that cross national borders, to terrorism, to drug smuggling, to
organized crime, to people who would use weapons of mass destruction.
� Now, how are we going to deepen this relationship between the U.S.
and Asia, since all of us recognize that it is in our interest and it
will further our values? I believe there are three basic lessons
that we can learn from the immediate past that should guide our path
to the future.
� First, building economies and people, not weapons of mass
destruction, is every nation's best path to greatness. The vast
majority of nations are moving away from not toward nuclear weapons,
and away from the notion that their influence in the future will be
defined by the size of their military rather than the size of their
GDP and the percentage of their citizens who know a great deal about
� India and Pakistan's recent nuclear test, therefore, buck the tide
of history. This is all the more regrettable because of the enormous
potential of both countries. The United States has been deeply
enriched by citizens from both India and Pakistan who have done so
very well in America. They and their relatives could be doing very
well at home, and therefore, could be advancing their nations' cause
around the world. Both these countries could achieve real,
different, fundamental greatness in the 21st century, but it will
never happen if they divert precious resources from their people to
develop nuclear and huge military arsenals.
� We have worked hard with China and other leading nations to forge
an international consensus to prevent an intensifying arms race on
the Indian subcontinent. We don't seek to isolate India and
Pakistan, but we do seek to divert them from a self-defeating,
dangerous, and costly course. We encourage both nations to stop
testing, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to settle their
differences through peaceful dialog.
� The second lesson that we should take into the future is that
nations will only enjoy true and lasting prosperity when governments
are open, honest, and fair in their practices, and when they regulate
and supervise financial markets rather than direct them.
� Too many booming economies, too many new skyscrapers now vacant
and in default were built on shaky foundations of cronyism,
corruption, and overextended credit, undermining the confidence of
investors with sudden, swift, and severe consequences. The financial
crisis, as all of you know far better than I, has touched nearly all
the nations and households of Asia. Restoring economic stability and
growth will not be easy. The steps required will be politically
unpopular and will take courage. But the United States will do all
we can to help any Asian government willing to work itself back to
financial health. We have a big interest in the restoration of
growth, starting the flows of investment back into Asia.
� There is a very limited time period in which we can absorb all the
exports to try to do our part to keep the Asian economy going. And
while we may enjoy a brief period of surging extra investment, over
the long run, stable growth everywhere in the world is the best
prescription for stable growth in America.
� We are seeing some positive steps. Yesterday Japan announced the
details of its new and potentially quite significant banking reform
proposals. We welcome them. Thailand and Korea are taking decisive
action to implement the IMF-supported economic reform programs of
their countries. Indonesia has a fresh opportunity to deepen
democratic roots and to address the economic challenges before it.
Thanks to the leadership of President Jiang and Premier Zhu, China
has followed a disciplined, wise policy of resisting competitive
devaluations that could threaten the Chinese economy, the region's,
and the world's.
� Even as your own economy, so closely tied to those of Asia,
inevitably feels the impact of these times, Hong Kong continues to
serve as a force for stability. With strong policies to address the
crisis, a healthy respect for the rule of law, a strong system of
financial regulation and supervision, a commitment to working with
all nations, Hong Kong can help to lead Asia out of turbulent times
as it contributes to China's astonishing transformation by providing
investment capital and expertise in privatizing state enterprises and
sharing legal and regulatory experience.
� The final lesson I believe is this: Political freedom, respect for
human rights, and support for representative governments are both
morally right and ultimately the best guarantors of stability in the
world of the 21st century. This spring the whole world looked on
with deep interest as courageous citizens in Indonesia raised their
voices in protest against corruption and government practices that
have brought their nation's economy to its knees. They demonstrated
for change, for the right to elect leaders fully accountable to them.
And in just 2 weeks the universal longing for democratic, responsive,
accountable government succeeded in altering their political future.
� America will stand by the people of Indonesia and others as they
strive to become part of the rising tide of freedom around the world.
Some worry that widespread political participation and loud voices of
dissent can pull a nation apart. Some nations have a right to worry
about instability because of the pain of their own past. But
nonetheless, I fundamentally disagree, especially given the dynamics
of the 21st century global society.
� Why? Democracy is rooted in the propositions that all people are
entitled to equal treatment and an equal voice in choosing their
leaders and that no individual or group is so wise or so all-knowing
to make all the decisions that involve unfettered power over other
people. The information age has brought us yet another argument for
democracy. It has given us a global economy that is based on, more
than anything else, ideas. A torrent of new ideas are generating
untold growth and opportunity, not only for individuals and firms,
but for nations. As I saw again in Shanghai when I met with a dozen
incredibly impressive Chinese entrepreneurs, ideas are creating
wealth in this economy.
� Now, it seems to me, therefore, inevitable that societies with the
freest flow of ideas are most likely to be both successful and stable
in the new century. When difficulties come, as they do to every
country and in all ages-there is never a time that is free of
difficulties-it seems to me that open debate and unconventional views
are most likely to help countries most quickly overcome the
difficulties of unforeseen developments.
� Let me ask you this: A year ago, when you celebrated the turnover
from Great Britain to China of Hong Kong, what was everybody buzzing
about after the speeches were over? Will this really work? Will
this two-system thing work? Will we be able to keep elections? Will
this work? How many people were off in a corner saying, you know,
this is a pretty tough time to be doing this, because a year from now
the whole Asian economy is going to be in collapse, and how in the
world will we deal with this? When you cannot foresee the future and
when problems coming on you have to bring forth totally new thinking,
the more open the environment, the quicker countries will respond. I
believe this is profoundly important.
� I also believe that by providing a constructive outlet for the
discontent that will always exist in every society-because there is
no perfect place, and because people have different views and
experience reality differently-and by finding a way to give everybody
some sense of empowerment and role in a society, that freedom breeds
the responsibility without which the open, highly changing societi es
of the 21st century simply cannot succeed.
� For all these reasons, I think the forces of history will move all
visionary people, including Asians, with their legendary assets of
hard work, intelligence, and education, toward freer, more democratic
societies and ways of ordering their affairs.
� For me, these lessons we must carry forward into the new century.
And in this time of transition and change, as we deepen America's
partnership with Asia, success will come to those who invest in the
positive potential of their people, not weapons to destroy others.
Open governments and the rule of law are essential to lasting
prosperity. Freedom and democracy are the birthrights of all people
and the best guarantors of national stability and progress.
� Now, as I said, a little over a year ago, no one could have
predicted what you would have to endure today in the form of this
crisis. But I am confident Hong Kong will get through this and will
help to leadthe region out of it, because of the lessons that I have
just mentioned, and because they have been a part of the fabric of
your life here for a very long time.
� For years, Hong Kong people have enjoyed the right to organize
public demonstrations, due process under law, 43 newspapers and 700
periodicals, giving life to the principle of government
accountability, debate, free and open. All this must continue. The
world was impressed by the record turnout for your May elections.
The results were a mandate for more democracy, not less, and faster,
not slower strides toward political freedom. I look forward to the
day when all of the people of Hong Kong realize the rights and
responsibilities of full democracy.
� I think we should all pledge, each in our own way, to build that
kind of future, a future where we build people up, not tear our
neighbors down; a future where we order our affairs in a legal,
predictable, open way; a future where we try to tap the potential and
recognize the authority of each individual.
� I'm told that this magnificent convention center was built in the
shape of a soaring bird on a patch of land reclaimed from the sea.
It's an inspiring symbol of the possibilities of Hong Kong, of all of
Asia, and of our relationship with Asia. Just a couple of days ago,
Hong Kong celebrated its first anniversary of reversion to China. I
am going home for America's 222d anniversary tomorrow.
� May the future of this special place, of China, of the
relationship between the United States and China and Asia, soar like
the bird that gave life to this building.
� Thank you very much.
� NOTE: The President spoke at 10:42 a.m. in the Hong Kong
Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to Jeff Muir,
chairman, American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong; Victor Fong,
chairman, Hong Kong Trade Development Council; Chief Executive C.H.
Tung of Hong Kong; and President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji
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