tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey WHUT March 20, 2011 6:00pm-6:30pm EDT
captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- >> ambassador, what has been going on inside china for the last 30 years? >> fundamental changes. absolutely. the country is virtually unrecognizable today compared to what it was 30 years ago. i was there 30 years ago. >> i know. you were born there, weren't you? >> i was born there, world war ii, lived there with the communist revolution, and i went back three times during the cultural revolution. i was part of the negotiating team when we negotiated diplomatic relations. i've seen china in lots of different forms. >> it seems that when we were focused in afghanistan and
iraq, china went from, say, zero to 60 in the last 10 years, especially economically. >> 10 years ago, china realized it was rising so rapidly that it was undoubtedly going to cause concern amongst its neighbors. it adopted a policy of alleviating concerns in the region -- soft diplomacy, very effective. it formed a strategic partnership with the association of southeast asian nations, negotiated a code of conduct for the south china sea. it has been undoing some of the benefits, because the results of the financial crisis has given china a boost in the world. the result is it has been more assertive. a word that does not translate very well into chinese. it is not aggressive behavior, but a willingness to push your own interests aggressively. >> would you call them a superpower?
>> i would say they are a superpower in the making. i don't like the term "superpower." "great power" might be more accurate. we have never been a super power in the sense of being able to really dominate the rest of the world. we've always needed help. we have been unquestionably the strongest single power, but we have important power centers elsewhere in the world. those power centers are becoming more significant. >> i see a shift from the atlantic to the pacific ocean with so many different things, including our new investment, or reinvestment, back in east asia. am i right on that? >> you are right. the chinese keep asking us, are you changing policy on east asia? no, we're not changing policy. our policy has always been to be engaged in east asia. that goes back to the founding
of the republic. but we were paying primary attention to the middle east during the period when asia was changing rapidly and creating regional institutions, and we were not paying adequate attention. we are paying more attention to the region. that is not the same as a policy shift. >> when we think of that part of the world, we think of china, south korea, japan. who else should we keep an eye on? >> indonesia. 85% of the population are muslims. the largest muslim population of anywhere in the world, but more christians than the population of australia. this is a diverse country. our national slogan is "e pluribus unum." in indonesia, it is "unity in diversity."
they have this enormous number of ethnic groups, languages, and they have been able to make a go of the country. >> this is what came to me as i was preparing for the conversation. years ago, and i mean years ago, my mother used to say -- god bless her -- if a business could sell one pair of nylon stockings to every woman in china, they would have a very successful business. was she right way back when? >> she is right in terms of the math but perhaps a little bit optimistic in terms of the possibilities. >> it seems that everything we read about with china and united states is focused on economics and trade and investment. >> if you take a chinese peasant and move that peasant into an urban job, the productivity of the worker goes
up 20 times. >> why is that so? >> one unit of agricultural production is worth virtually nothing, but one unit of factory production is worth much more. those relationships are determined by the market. goods that are in demand or have a big export market, you can do better as an export worker in terms of productivity then you can as a rice farmer. that means one of the explanations for china's rapid growth has been they have been moving people from the rural areas to higher productivity urban jobs. >> urbanization, and creating a huge work force. >> they have a problem coming, because they have had a single- child policy for years now. the problem will be the reduction in the working force.
as the single children are entering the workforce, you have one child entering where you had two or three children. that's quite to create real demographic challenges. >> will it slow production down? >> not any time in the near future, certainly. if you increase productivity so that a smaller number of workers continue to produce more than the earlier group, then you can handle it. that is what happened in the united states, what happened before. our big challenge now is to try to regain sufficient productivity so we can maintain our standard of living and still deal with the economic problems we are facing, including our big budget deficits and our too-low savings rate. >> let me take a break and tell the folks at home that i am talking to ambassador j. stapleton roy, 45 years in the foreign service, earned the
designation of a career diplomat. it is the highest you can go. former assistant secretary of state, a former ambassador to singapore, china, and indonesia, and also, very importantly now, director of the kissinger institute on china and the united states, among lots of other things. sit tight. "this is america." >> "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals.
poongsan corporation, forging a higher global standard. and the rotondaro family trust, the ctc foundation, afo communications, and the american life tv network. mentioneddor, you've as we were starting our conversation, born in nanking. >> that's right. >> what did your dad do that caused that all to happen? >> my father was a missionary, but not an ordinary missionary. he was a college professor, had a ph.d., and taught courses in a college in china that was supported by church contributions from the united states. >> of a particular denomination? >> he was presbyterian, but you tended to submerge your denominations in china.
>> what was the attitude toward religion at that time? we are talking about, what, the 1950's? >> i was born there in the 1930's, but we were back there again in the 1940's and 1950's. >> what was the attitude towards religion in the 1930's and 1940's? >> there was tolerance. christianity was a distinct minority. buddhism was probably the dominant religion. christians were concentrated in the better educated classes. the christians had a disproportionate influence in terms of education in china. and in terms of many of the
professions and government positions. >> what caused you to have to leave at what period of time? >> i left china as a resident the last time in 1950. we stayed on after the communist revolution, because my father wanted to continue his university work. after the korean war began, it became untenable for americans to stay in china. as soon as the war broke out, they sent my brother and me back to the united states. >> how did you end up in princeton? >> my father did his ph.d. there. i loved the town, almost thought of it as home. when i got out of high school, the only place i wanted to go was princeton. >> you pursued mongolian studies -- >> at the university of washington. it was interesting -- we were planning to establish diplomatic relations with mongolia in the 1960's. a separate country, but wedged
in there between china and the soviet union. there was no prospect of getting into china at that time, in the 1960's. i figured, as a china specialist, getting as close to china as possible would provide useful knowledge and experience. against the advice of everybody, i was eager to be selected as the mongolian student. they sent one chinese speaker and one russian speaker. but then we decided to fight the vietnam war and we needed the support of chiang kai-shek and he considered mongolia a part of china. i was sent off to the russian desk, and the russian speaker was sent to hong kong. >> you had experience in russia as well. what should we now, as kind of a parentheses in our conversation, about mongolia?
>> well, it is a country that conquered most of the world 600 years ago. since then, basically, it is a large, rural country with 20 times as many sheep as people. >> ok. >> historically, they were nomadic herdspeople, but they also have rich mineral deposits. when they came out from under the soviet yoke -- although the russians poured a lot of investment into mongolia -- one should not treat them as just having abused the country -- they were able to transition to democratic government. >> what about the foreign service? >> you begin to worry your junior year about what you're going to do. i started out as an engineering
student, and switched to history after finding that other students had more of an advantage than i did. we had a state department recruiter come that made it sound like a dramatic profession. >> was it? >> actually, it turned out to be. >> singapore, china -- like going home, i'm sure, in such a senior position representing the united states -- and indonesia. let's talk about china, back it up and pursue that a bit. friend or foe or competitor? >> i would call them a friend rather than a foe, but it can be either and that is where the challenge in foreign-policy lies. there is nothing inevitable that will put us in conflict with china.
it will represent a failure of leadership in one or both countries if we end up in conflict with china. >> separate us out of the equation, and you are sitting with china and the government of china. what is their interest? >> for over 100 years, the goal in china is to gain wealth and power. they have pretty much both of that. it is like the old bodybuilding ads. why does china want to be powerful? in chinese minds, it is because they had 100 years where they were essentially taken advantage of by other, stronger countries. they want to be more powerful so that other countries can no longer take advantage of china. the problem is, when you have extra muscles, you might take advantage of other people.
china's big problem now, if it is successful in achieving its ambitions of being more prosperous and stronger, that it will create fears on the part of its neighbors. will it manage that practically, or is china going to pursue the same path as other rising powers and create so many fears that people will unite against it and china will not be strong enough? >> you have just come back from japan. the relationship between japan and china right now is not very good. >> it is not very good. their relationship with south korea is the worst since they started diplomatic relations in 1992. all of these countries -- japan has more trade with china than with the united states right now, more exports. taiwan has more trade with the mainland than it has with the united states. korea also has more exports to
china. these countries have major interest in maintaining decent relations with china so that they can benefit from china's rapid economic growth. you cannot reduce this to a simple question of china is getting stronger and that conflict with china is inevitable. none of the countries around china wants to be in conflict with or contain china. they want china to develop as a country that does not pose a threat. >> are we in error of trying to make china more like the united states? >> we are in error if we think we can make china something at all. we've given enormous opportunities to chinese students, who learned english, get higher education, in some cases stay on and work in our business community, and gain the skills of modern corporate
society, and then go back to china. they understand what makes us tick. they don't think our political system or economic system can simply be transferred to china piecemeal. but they see that we have a free press and the role it plays, they see what an independent judiciary can do in protecting the rights of the citizens. they carry their ideas back with them and try to apply it in a china context. the whole process of thinking about what china could become in the future has been enormously influenced by 30 years of extensive interactions with the united states. if we want to change china, the way to do it is to maintain our relationship with china that allows china to have ready access to our society. >> in terms of trade and economics? >> no, across the board. in security, what we want to do
is enable china to be able to defend a much more prosperous country, without becoming a threat to its neighbors. >> seems to me that i thought that in areas that cause stress and tension, trust has always been a concern. some of the trade imbalance causes problems. human-rights has been brought to the fore by not only the secretary of state, mrs. clinton, and also the president -- and taiwan seems to be a sticky wicket. >> all those have been key factors in our relationship with china. our problems with china on taiwan have to do with arms sales. >> as they get closer and closer together -- >> that is part of the issue.
the other is relations between taiwan and the mainland are the best they have ever been. >> at the same time, the mainland has all these missiles aimed at taiwan. >> the u.s. government is giving the same message. with cross-strait relations as good as they are, why don't we strike a lower military posture? in 1995, china did not deploy its military in ways that were threatening to taiwan. but then there were problems in the middle of the 1990's, and china used threats of force because independence forces were emerging in taiwan. >> will taiwan become like hong kong? >> no, its circumstances are totally different.
it has 90 miles of water for riya. frankly, the terms that china has offered taiwan in terms of communication are fundamentally different. taiwan gets to maintain its own armed forces. in hong kong, the mainland is responsible for defense. >> how about agreement? i canthink of terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the financial crisis -- lord knows, we need china, didn't we? >> they hold millions of dollars of reserves -- >> they really did bail us out. >> you have to hand it to the bush administration for having
set up this strategic economic dialogue, and because we've always had a joint economic commission, which was chaired by treasury. but it only met once a year, and in some cases, it was not meeting every year brought this strategic economic dialogue met every six months, and all of our top financial and commercial people at the minister level, the cabinet secretary level, but sit down with their chinese counterparts when you meet that frequently, you know the other person, you associate and name and face, and approved in a valuable when the financial crisis hit, because all of a sudden we could pick up the telephone and talk to the chinese and coordinate, because they were worried, holding these vast amounts of u.s. dollars, to see us go through a financial crisis. it was scary from their standpoint. absolutely.
also, the export sector took a real plunge in the fall of 2008. >> here we come back to this trade thing. it has been going up and up and up in terms of the countries working together, it has been a tremendous market for products here. yet there is a trade imbalance, and i guess some of the u.s. companies complain about favoritism, procurement, taxes or tariffs, things of that nature. theft -- >> theft of intellectual property. >> these are all kind of getting in the way. >> absolutely. we have a laundry list of problems in terms of the chinese market -- >> we need them and they need us. >> china's development has been
very good for us. we complain about the exchange rate. china, as a major trading country, still has a nonconvertible currency. there's no question that china needs to move in the direction of a currency whose value is determined by market forces. it is not there yet. and it will always be an issue between us. our exports to china have been going up much more rapidly than any other market we have. during the financial crisis, when our exports to the rest of the ball dropped by 20%,our exports to china held steady. when you think about the exchange rate, why is it that we are still able to export faster to china than to other countries? the problem is, we are importing even faster, and that creates the trade imbalance. >> in one of the articles i read, a corporation here said
that if you want to sell to china, you have to be in china. >> you have to know your market. >> people feel threatened by jobs going overseas, but in the long run, it benefits us, doesn't it? >> we have possibilities to get some of those jobs back. why? china is generating excess capital, and it has got over $2 trillion of foreign exchange reserves. >> investment -- >> investment. >> in china and the united states, creates jobs. we are at the end of our time, ambassador, but i want to ask you an open-ended question of where you see u.s.-china and china itself in the next few years. >> i think that with good
leadership in both countries - and i think the leaders we have and the leaders we will get are going to be good enough to continue the process -- we will be able to manage the many, many areas of difference between us and build on the areas of common interest. those common interests are not trivial. they are big, big common interests. china is buying into the international system. it has fractious neighbors like north korea, and that creates a lot of problems for china, and it does not always handle those problems as well as it should. but i am optimistic about the future of our relationship. >> so good to sit and talk with you. thank you for the education. >> for online video of all "this is america" programs, visit our website, thisisamerica.net.
"this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. poongsan corporation, forging a higher global standard. and the rotondaro family trust, the ctc foundation, afo communications, and the american life tv network.