October 31, 1989
You are visiting China at a time when relations between China and the United States are strained.
The relations between our two countries were hostile for 23 years, from the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 to 1972. It was not until you served as President of the United States that this situation began to change. I appreciate very much your view that, in determining relations between two countries, each party should proceed from his country's own strategic interests. I too think that each country should proceed from its own long-term strategic interests, and at the same time respect the interests of the other. Each country, whether it is big or small, strong or weak, should respect others as equals, giving no thought to old scores or to differences in social systems and ideologies. In this way all problems can be properly solved. But it takes courage to use this approach. So you were not only wise but courageous to visit China in 1972. I know that you are an anti-Communist, while I am a Communist. Nevertheless, in studying and handling problems, both of us place the highest importance on the national interest. In dealing with a major question like this, both of us are realistic, broad-minded and respectful of each other.
When trying to improve relations with the Soviet Union and the East European countries, which had been strained for several decades, we always said the most important thing was to put the past behind us and open up a new era. Now perhaps we can say that, by the same token, China and the United States should put behind them the strained relations of the last few months and open up a new era. Frankly, the recent disturbances and the counter-revolutionary rebellion that took place in Beijing were fanned by international anti-communism and anti-socialism. It's a pity that the United States was so deeply involved in this matter and that it keeps denouncing China; actually China is the victim. China has done nothing to harm the United States. Each country can have its own views of this event, but you cannot ask us to accept incorrect criticism from others. The American public got its information from the Voice of America and from American newspapers and periodicals, which reported that blood was flowing like a river in Tian'anmen Square and that tens of thousands of people had died. They even gave the exact number of casualties. The Voice of America has gone too far. The people working for it tell lies; they are completely dishonest. If the American leaders determine their state policies on the basis of information provided by the Voice of America, they will be in trouble.
We have forgiven the students, including the ones overseas, who participated in demonstrations and signed petitions. No action will be taken against them. As for the handful of people with unbridled ambitions who tried to overturn the Government of the People's Republic of China, we shall punish them to varying degrees as necessary. We cannot tolerate turmoil, and whenever it arises in future we shall impose martial law. This will do no harm to anyone or to any country. It is our internal affair. The purpose of imposing martial law is to maintain stability; only with stability can we carry on economic development. The reason is very simple. In China, which has a huge population and a poor economic foundation, nothing can be accomplished without good public order, political stability and unity. Stability is of overriding importance.
I am not saying that governments of Western countries are trying to overthrow the socialist system in China. But at least some Westerners are trying to. This can only arouse the resentment of the Chinese people and make them work harder for the prosperity of their country. People who value human rights should not forget the rights of the state. When they talk about human dignity, they should not forget national dignity. In particular, if the developing countries of the Third World, like China, have no national self-respect and do not cherish their independence, they will not enjoy that independence for long.
I should like you to tell President Bush that the United States should take the initiative in putting the past behind us, because only your country can do that. The United States can take some initiative, but it's not possible for China to do so, because the US is strong and China is weak, China is the victim. Don't ever expect China to beg the United States to lift the sanctions. If they lasted a hundred years, the Chinese would not do that. If China had no self-respect, it could not maintain its independence for long and would lose its national dignity. Too much is at stake. If any Chinese leader made a mistake in this regard, the Chinese people would never forgive him, and he would surely fall. I'm telling you the truth.
In handling relations between countries, we should follow the principle of noninterference in each other's internal affairs. The People's Republic of China will never allow any country to interfere in its internal affairs. Foreign interference could create difficulties and even turmoil in our country for a time, but it can never shake our People's Republic, because under the leadership of the Communist Party the life of the Chinese people has been improving day by day, especially in the last ten years. The improvement is genuine, not a sham. Our people support the reform and the open policy, and they see a bright future for China.
I can assure you that no one can stop China's reform and opening to the outside world. Why? For the simple reason that without those policies we could not continue to make progress and our economy would go downhill. If we returned to the ways of the past, living standards would decline. So no one can alter the trend of reform. Whether I'm alive and at my present post or not, the policies and principles formulated under my guidance over the last decade will not be changed. I am convinced that my colleagues will not change them.
Some people say that we are reforming only our economic structure and not our political structure. That is not true. But we can reform our political structure only on condition that we adhere to the Four Cardinal Principles. We can't build anything if the country is in disorder; for economic development we need stability. If people are busy staging demonstrations today and airing their views or writing big-character posters tomorrow, they cannot concentrate on economic construction.
Sino-US relations have a good foundation; the two countries can help each other develop their economies and defend their economic interests. The Chinese market is by no means fully developed yet, and the United States can take advantage of it in many ways. We shall be happy to have American merchants continue doing business with China. That could be an important way of putting the past behind us.
(Excerpt from a talk with former President Richard Nixon of the United States.)