|President Bush Speaks at Tsinghua University |
Beijing, People's Republic of China
10:35 A.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Vice President Hu, thank you very much for your kind and generous remarks. Thank you for welcoming me and my wife, Laura, here. (Applause.) I see she's keeping pretty good company, with the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. It's good to see you, Mr. Secretary. (Applause.) And I see my National Security Advisor, Ms. Condoleezza Rice, who at one time was the provost at Stanford University. So she's comfortable on university campuses such as this. Thank you for being here, Condi. (Applause.)
I'm so grateful for the hospitality, and honored for the reception at one of China's, and the world's, great universities.
This university was founded, interestingly enough, with the support of my country, to further ties between our two nations. I know how important this place is to your Vice President. He not only received his degree here, but more importantly, he met his gracious wife here. (Laughter.)
I want to thank the students for giving me the chance to meet with you, the chance to talk a little bit about my country and answer some of your questions. The standards and reputation of this university are known around the world, and I know what an achievement it is to be here. So, congratulations. (Applause.) I don't know if you know this or not, but my wife and I have two daughters who are in college, just like you. One goes to the University of Texas. One goes to Yale. They're twins. And we are proud of our daughters, just like I'm sure your parents are proud of you.
My visit to China comes on an important anniversary, as the Vice President mentioned. Thirty years ago this week, an American President arrived in China on a trip designed to end decades of estrangement and confront centuries of suspicion. President Richard Nixon showed the world that two vastly different governments could meet on the grounds of common interest, in the spirit of mutual respect. As they left the airport that day, Premier Zhou Enlai said this to President Nixon: "Your handshake came over the vastest ocean in the world -- 25 years of no communication."
During the 30 years since, America and China have exchanged many handshakes of friendship and commerce. And as we have had more contact with each other, the citizens of both countries have gradually learned more about each other. And that's important. Once America knew China only by its history as a great and enduring civilization. Today, we see a China that is still defined by noble traditions of family, scholarship, and honor. And we see a China that is becoming one of the most dynamic and creative societies in the world -- as demonstrated by the knowledge and potential right here in this room. China is on a rising path, and America welcomes the emergence of a strong and peaceful and prosperous China. (Applause.)
As America learns more about China, I am concerned that the Chinese people do not always see a clear picture of my country. This happens for many reasons, and some of them of our own making. Our movies and television shows often do not portray the values of the real America I know. Our successful businesses show a strength of American commerce, but our spirit, community spirit, and contributions to each other are not always visible as monetary success.
Some of the erroneous pictures of America are painted by others. My friend, the Ambassador to China, tells me some Chinese textbooks talk of Americans of "bullying the weak and repressing the poor." Another Chinese textbook, published just last year, teaches that special agents of the FBI are used to "repress the working people." Now, neither of these is true -- and while the words may be leftovers from a previous era, they are misleading and they're harmful.
In fact, Americans feel a special responsibility for the weak and the poor. Our government spends billions of dollars to provide health care and food and housing for those who cannot help themselves -- and even more important, many of our citizens contribute their own money and time to help those in need. American compassion also stretches way beyond our borders. We're the number one provider of humanitarian aid to people in need throughout the world. And as for the men and women of the FBI and law enforcement, they're working people; they, themselves, are working people who devote their lives to fighting crime and corruption.
My country certainly has its share of problems, no question about that. And we have our faults. Like most nations we're on a long journey toward achieving our own ideals of equality and justice. Yet there's a reason our nation shines as a beacon of hope and opportunity, a reason many throughout the world dream of coming to America. It's because we're a free nation, where men and women have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. No matter your background or your circumstance of birth, in America you can get a good education, you can start your own business, you can raise a family, you can worship freely, and help elect the leaders of your community and your country. You can support the policies of our government, or you're free to openly disagree with them. Those who fear freedom sometimes argue it could lead to chaos, but it does not, because freedom means more than every man for himself.
Liberty gives our citizens many rights, yet expects them to exercise important responsibilities. Our liberty is given direction and purpose by moral character, shaped in strong families, strong communities, and strong religious institutions, and overseen by a strong and fair legal system.
My country's greatest symbol to the world is the Statue of Liberty, and it was designed by special care. I don't know if you've ever seen the Statue of Liberty, but if you look closely, she's holding not one object, but two. In one hand is the familiar torch we call the "light of liberty." And in the other hand is a book of law.
We're a nation of laws. Our courts are honest and they are independent. The President -- me -- I can't tell the courts how to rule, and neither can any other member of the executive or legislative branch of government. Under our law, everyone stands equal. No one is above the law, and no one is beneath it.
All political power in America is limited and it is temporary, and only given by the free vote of the people. We have a Constitution, now two centuries old, which limits and balances the power of the three branches of our government, the judicial branch, the legislative branch, and the executive branch, of which I'm a part.
Many of the values that guide our life in America are first shaped in our families, just as they are in your country. American moms and dads love their children and work hard and sacrifice for them, because we believe life can always be better for the next generation. In our families, we find love and learn responsibility and character.
And many Americans voluntarily devote part of their lives to serving other people. An amazing number -- nearly half of all adults in America -- volunteer time every week to make their communities better by mentoring children, or by visiting the sick, or caring for the elderly, or helping with thousands of other needs and causes. This is one of the great strengths of my country. People take responsibility for helping others, without being told, motivated by their good hearts and often by their faith.
America is a nation guided by faith. Someone once called us "a nation with the soul of a church." This may interest you -- 95 percent of Americans say they believe in God, and I'm one of them.
When I met President Jiang Zemin in Shanghai a few months ago, I had the honor of sharing with him how faith changed my life and how faith contributes to the life of my country. Faith points to a moral law beyond man's law, and calls us to duties higher than material gain. Freedom of religion is not something to be feared, it's to be welcomed, because faith gives us a moral core and teaches us to hold ourselves to high standards, to love and to serve others, and to live responsible lives.
If you travel across America -- and I hope you do some day if you haven't been there -- you will find people of many different ethic backgrounds and many different faiths. We're a varied nation. We're home to 2.3 million Americans of Chinese ancestry, who can be found working in the offices of our corporations, or in the Cabinet of the President of the United States, or skating for the America Olympic team. Every immigrant, by taking an oath of allegiance to our country, becomes just as just as American as the President. America shows that a society can be vast and it can be varied, yet still one country, commanding the allegiance and love of its people.
And all these qualities of America were widely on display on a single day, September the 11th, the day when terrorists, murderers, attacked my nation. American policemen and firefighters, by the hundreds, ran into burning towers in desperation to save their fellow citizens. Volunteers came from everywhere to help with rescue efforts. Americans donated blood and gave money to help the families of victims. America had prayer services all over our country, and people raised flags to show their pride and unity. And you need to know, none of this was ordered by the government; it happened spontaneously, by the initiative of free people.
Life in America shows that liberty, paired with law is not to be feared. In a free society, diversity is not disorder. Debate is not strife. And dissent is not revolution. A free society trusts its citizens to seek greatness in themselves and their country.
It was my honor to visit China in 1975 -- some of you weren't even born then. It shows how old I am. (Laughter.) And a lot has changed in your country since then. China has made amazing progress -- in openness and enterprise and economic freedom. And this progress previews China'a great potential.
China has joined the World Trade Organization, and as you live up to its obligations, they inevitably will bring changes to China's legal system. A modern China will have a consistent rule of law to govern commerce and secure the rights of its people. The new China your generation is building will need the profound wisdom of your traditions. The lure of materialism challenges our society -- challenges society in our country, and in many successful countries. Your ancient ethic of personal and family responsibility will serve you well.
Behind China's economic success today are talented, brilliant and energetic people. In the near future, those same men and women will play a full and active role in your government. This university is not simply turning out specialists, it is preparing citizens. And citizens are not spectators in the affairs of their country. They are participants in its future.
Change is coming. China is already having secret ballot and competitive elections at the local level. Nearly 20 years ago, a great Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, said this -- I want you to hear his words. He said that China would eventually expand democratic elections all the way to the national level. I look forward to that day.
Tens of millions of Chinese today are relearning Buddhist, Taoist, and local religious traditions, or practicing Christianity, Islam, and other faiths. Regardless of where or how these believers worship, they're no threat to public order; in fact, they make good citizens. For centuries, this country has had a tradition of religious tolerance. My prayer is that all persecution will end, so that all in China are free to gather and worship as they wish.
All these changes will lead to a stronger, more confident China -- a China that can astonish and enrich the world, a China that your generation will help create. This is one of the most exciting times in the history of your country, a time when even the grandest hopes seem within your reach.
My nation offers you our respect and our friendship. Six years from now, athletes from America and around the world will come to your country for the Olympic games. And I'm confident they will find a China that is becoming a da guo, a leading nation, at peace with its people and at peace with the world.
Thank you for letting me come. (Applause.)