Interview With Chinese Journalists on the President's Trip to China

April 16, 1984

Q. It's nice to have a chance to meet you here at the White House and to do an interview. And I think this will be the first interview given, Mr. President, to the journalists from the People's Republic of China. And I must add this will be the first press interview ever given by any U.S. President to the permanent representatives of the Chinese press in Washington.

The President. Well. Well, I'm delighted to be a first in that regard.

Q. So, with your permission, I will ask the first question -- --

The President. All right.

Q. -- -- and followed by my colleagues. Mr. President, not long ago Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang visited the United States. Now you are about to leave here for a visit to the People's Republic of China. Would you like to comment on the significance of this visit and the impact of such mutual visits on the bilateral relationship between China and the United States, and on the world situation as a whole?

The President. Well, yes. The visits -- I had been invited by the Premier to visit China; I, in turn, had invited him. And the way it had turned out between the leaders of China and of the United States, we felt was proper that our invitation to him that he come here, and I would wait and take my turn after his visit.

As to the importance of it, I think our countries are friends. We recognize the nonaligned status of the People's Republic and respect that, but also, I know it has been my thinking for a long time that the United States is truly a nation of the Pacific Basin. And certainly the largest and most important state in that Pacific Basin is the People's Republic of China. I think that these visits are a sign of maturing our friendship, our relationship. There are some differences between us, but there are many more things that we have in common that can be mutually beneficial.

And I believe that the entire Pacific Basin is the world's future. It is the fastest growing area. And we can cooperate in some of the modernization that is going on in industry in the People's Republic. They, in turn -- well, the benefits would be mutual.

Just a few minutes ago, before you came in, I met with a little group of the students from China who are here in the United States. There are some 11,000 here, but this was just a small group representative of them. And I told them how we would hope to see that expand with more of our students going there, more young students from China coming here.

We have a long history of friendship between our two peoples. It began 200 years ago when an American clipper ship visited China and trade began -- farm products mainly from our part; Chinese arts, textiles, handiwork from China's part in the trade. Now, while some of those same things are the basis of the trade, we've added high technology. And I think the future in trade and development for both of us holds out a great promise for our people.

I'll try to make some of my answers shorter, but you asked a kind of a question that couldn't be answered short.

Q. Mr. President, in a couple of days, you'll be on your way to China for a friendly visit, and observers describe your visit -- trip -- historical. And I believe you'll be warmly welcomed in our country. My question is, how would you assess the present state of Chinese-American relations, and what is your view of the prospects of these relations? And, finally, what results are you going to achieve from your scheduled trip?

The President. Well, as I said in answer to the first question, it is, I think, a maturing of the relationship between us. I do believe that there is a friendship between our two peoples that's historic. There are a number of areas having to do with trade that we're going to discuss. I know there are certain things that we hope we can come to agreement on with regard to trade matters. I know at the ministerial level we've been discussing a tax treaty that would protect China's people and our own from the penalty of double taxation.

There are a number of things in which we can come to agreement. We've been discussing nuclear relations and -- well, I've always believed that people only get in trouble when they're talking about each other, not talking to each other. So, I think this will be a time for talking to each other, as it was when the Premier was here.

Q. Mr. President, this is going to be your first visit to the People's Republic of China. Would you tell us how you feel and what kind of message are you bringing to the Chinese people?

The President. I think it could be summed up that I know I'm going to be addressing students at the university. I'm going to be speaking to the nation on television. I'm going to speak of our desire for increased friendship and relations with the People's Republic.

Q. Mr. President, one outstanding problem in the China-U.S. relations is the difference in dealing with the Chinese territory of Taiwan. As President of the United States, what measures are you prepared to take in eliminating this difference?

The President. I realize there is a difference there and it's been discussed, and on the recent visit here this was one of the subjects of discussion. I think our position is pretty well known to the leaders of the People's Republic, that we have a long and historic friendship with the Chinese people on Taiwan. We are not going to turn our back on old friends in order to, let's say, strengthen or make new friends. And all this I have made clear.

The problem between the People's Republic and the people on Taiwan is one for the Chinese to settle between themselves. We will do nothing to intervene; we will do nothing to pressure one side or the other. The only thing is, as I have stated many times, we believe that the solution must be peaceful in settling whatever differences there may be, and we look forward to and hope that there will be a peaceful settlement of that issue.

Q. Could I follow up with a little question on this? You said you are going to have continued friendly people-to-people relationships with Taiwan. I understand it's a people-to-people friendship, not in the sense of any relationship between governments. I want to ask whether am I right?

The President. We have diplomatic relations with the People's Republic. We have an unofficial relationship with the people on Taiwan, and it is one that is based on friendship and based on trade, things of that kind. And we have been perfectly frank about that, and I don't think that it is an obstacle to improved friendship between ourselves and the People's Republic.

Q. Mr. President, you will be the first incumbent U.S. President to visit the Chinese ancient capital city of Xian. Why have you made this choice?

The President. Oh, my goodness, that's an easy one to answer. That was the capital for 2,000 of the last 3,000 years. It has been the scene of some of the great and most historic excavations, archeological excavations, in the world. I've seen pictures, photos. I've read some of the discoveries there and the historic significance of that, and we want to see for ourselves, we want to visit.

Q. Thank you. Now would you tell us what kind of preparations are you making to prepare for the visit -- for instance, what kind of books and articles you and Mrs. Reagan have been reading and what kind of movies about China you have seen?

The President. Well, let me say, as to the first part of your question -- and the other one that I just answered also -- let me express my appreciation for the effort and the arrangements that the Government of the People's Republic has made in order for us to be able to visit that site.

But now, as to the overall visit, I, of course, have been reading many briefing tomes that have been provided, both with regard to the People's Republic and the matters that we're going to discuss. But also I have been trying to indoctrinate myself. I have met with scholars; I have met with -- who have been there. I have seen a number of books, and, well, the National Geographic has put together, as you know, a whole volume on China itself. Believe me, I have gone through that. And I don't know why I didn't know enough about China to be as aware, as I am now, of the great scenic beauty of the land.

You see normally in a newspaper pictures of cities or something -- and all cities have a certain amount of looking alike -- but in these other things that I've seen, the magnificent scenery, the beauty of the land, we're looking forward to that very much.

But I have been -- well, I've had available a great deal of information that has increased my interest in getting there.

Q. You're well prepared?

The President. Yes.

Q. Any movies you have seen about China?

The President. I've just seen some film that our own people put together on the various locations of where we will be, in discussing the schedule and the trip itself. I can't -- well, I've seen some reruns of tapes of President Nixon's visit, first visit, there.

I have to tell you, you should have asked the question of Mrs. Reagan, though, because she has more time for reading. And she has been reading a number of accounts of people there, and stories and background -- more than I have. So, I'll ask her questions if I need to.

Q. Thank you.

Q. Mr. President, did you practice using chopsticks?

The President. Because I have had other trips to Asia, if not to the People's Republic -- Korea, to Japan, and, too, Taiwan -- I've -- it's been a while yet, but I think I still remember how. And I don't think I'll have any trouble with that.

You know, this is the second trip to Asia in 6 months, the last one to Japan and Korea. And now this one. But I mention that because it is an indication of how strongly I feel that the Pacific Basin is the future.

Q. Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. We have enjoyed your conversation and, as I say, it is the first, and we hope, and I'm sure, it won't be the last.

The President. Well, I hope not.

Q. And we wish you a very happy journey to China. And bon voyage to you.

The President. Well, thank you very much. I am looking forward to meeting the other leaders that I have not yet met -- of the government there. And also I'm going to extend some invitations for them to visit our country.

Now, will any of you -- you're all based here as I understand.

Q. Yes, we are.

Q. Yes.

The President. Will any of you be making the trip?

Q. No. Not for this time, no.

The President. You mean you're going to have to read the Washington Post to find out what I'm doing? [Laughter]

Q. Watch the television. [Laughter]

The President. All right.

Q. We're going to rely on you for a big press conference. [Laughter]

Q. To see the response in this country.

The President. Well, all right.

Q. Thank you again, Mr. President.

Q. Thank you very much.

The President. Thank you.

Note: The interview began at 3:49 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. Participating in the interview were Peng Di of the Xinhua News Agency, Zhang Yunwen of the People's Daily, Lian Xingqian of the Wen Hui Bao Daily, Xue Fukang of the Guang Ming Daily, and Ma Ruiliu of Radio Beijing.

The transcript of the interview was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on April 17.