Chinese President Jiang Zemin, in a rare interview with a Western television network, says the United States “tends to overestimate itself and its position in the world."
In the CBS News “60 Minutes" interview to be broadcast on Sunday, Jiang emphasised Beijing’s desire to improve sometimes-strained relations with Washington although the two countries “differ greatly in terms of our values."
“Candidly speaking, maybe it is because of the economic power and leading edge in science and technology that the United States enjoys that more often than not it tends to overestimate itself and its position in the world," said Jiang, according to a transcript released by CBS News on Thursday.
The Chinese president said he wanted to reach out to the American people by granting the interview to the most-watched U.S. television network news program.
Jiang was interviewed on Aug. 15 at the Communist Party leadership summer resort of Beidaihe.
“I hope to convey through your program my best wishes to the American people," he said.
He said that regardless of whether Democrat Al Gore or Republican George W. Bush wins the Nov. 7 U.S. presidential election, the new president “will try to improve the friendly relations between China and the United States, for this is in the strategic interest of the whole world."
Jiang, scheduled to attend the Millennium Summit of the United Nations next week, denied that Wen Ho Lee, a former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist accused of copying U.S. nuclear weapons secrets, was a spy for China.
“I can tell you frankly, China was not in any way involved in Wen Ho Lee’s case," Jiang said.
He then suggested Lee was being framed.
“Allow me to quote a Chinese proverb which goes, ‘If you are out to condemn someone, you can always trump up a charge.’ We don’t know what political motives are behind it."
Lee has pleaded not guilty to 59 counts of illegally copying computer data on nuclear weapons design at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was indicted last December after being fired from Los Alamos in March 1999 amid congressional allegations of Chinese spying on the weapons laboratory.
Jiang bristled when his interviewer described China as “the last major Communist dictatorship in the world."
“Dictatorship?" Jiang said. “That is a big mistake. Speaking very frankly, I do not agree with you."
Relations with the United States reached a low point last year when American jets bombed Beijing’s embassy in Belgrade during NATO’s air war over Yugoslavia. U.S. officials have said the bombing was an accident.
“The United States has state-of-the-art technology," Jiang told “60 Minutes." “So all the explanations that they have given us for what they call a mistaken bombing are absolutely unconvincing."
Asked to describe the state of Chinese-American relations, Jiang said, “Our relations have experienced wind, rain and sometimes clouds or even dark clouds. However, sometimes it clears up. We all sincerely hope to build a constructive partnership between China and the United States."