China and US share dreams of peace

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-9-8 18:43:01

Jimmy Carter Photo: Li Hao/GT

Editor's Note:

Few political events in China in the late 1970s could compare to the beginning of the reform and opening-up policy and the normalization of the Sino-US relationship. Jimmy Carter, then US president, has always held that China's successful reform was linked closely with the normalizing relations of the two countries. Global Times (GT) reporter Wu Ningning talked to Jimmy Carter (Carter) recently on his retirement work and his view of China.

GT: October 1 will be your 90th birthday, and also the 65th anniversary of PRC. When the PRC was established, you were just 25. What was your impression of China at that moment?

When I first came here, of course, Mao Zedong's forces had taken over the mainland. And I visited Hong Kong, I visited Shanghai, and I stayed for two weeks in Qingdao.

So when I became involved in the politics, I was very deep interested in China. I saw then US president Richard Nixon and then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai declared there was one China, but Nixon didn't say which China.

So we continued with Taiwan for a long time. When I became president, I was determined to have normal relations with the Chinese mainland.

So this was the change I saw. Deng Xiaoping announced that we would normalize relations, and three days later he announced the reform and opening policy. So I always considered the transformation in China to be directly connected with the normalization of its relations with the US.

GT: August 22 marked the 110th birthday of Deng Xiaoping. In your personal diary, you describe Deng as "smart, tough, intelligent, frank, courageous, personable, self-assured, friendly."  Why did Deng impress you so much?

Deng was honest, very forthright, and I negotiated with him frequently, primarily in 1978 when he was very eager to see the US and China to join together as global partners at that time for stability and peace in Asia in particular.

So he and I made a commitment that for all time, including today, that the US and China will share responsibility for peace and stability for this region. When he came to visit me in the US in January 1979, I got to know him personally as one of the greatest men I've ever known.

He was a very strong leader for China, but he was very honest, and progressively he did best for the Chinese people and also for all the nations and the world. He was very practical. He and I reached an agreement on about 100 outstanding issues that had divided our countries for 30 years. Later, when I came to visit China, he always welcomed me with open arms as a friend and a partner.

GT: In a previous speech, you said "China shares its remarkable experience with other countries," so which experience, in your opinion, could China share with others?

China has been very benevolent and helpful to many of the poorest countries in the world, particular in Africa where the US hasn't set many projects. And we have been seeing China's major investments and better direct contributions, such as building highways, building schools, building sports arenas, providing workers there, so as to help people with major construction projects and form trade partnerships with Africa, Latin America, and poor countries in Asia.

GT: But to most Westerners, China’s investment in Africa may herald a new form of colonialism. How do you think?

Carter: I was at a banquet at the White House recently where the US invited 45 leaders of African Countries to come for US-African Leaders Summit, but I know that China had an African summit earlier, in 2006.

So one thing that we are trying to do is to understand that how we and China can work together, because we have many programs in Africa for peace and for democracy, freedom and human rights, and for health care.

GT: How can China and the US put ideological differences aside to cooperate productively?

We have so many common commitments much greater than the differences that divide us. We have permanent global obligations and opportunities to cooperate.

One of the most important things I wanted to mention to Chinese President Xi Jinping when I met with him was global warming, because China is afflicted with very serious environmental problems, and so is the rest of the world.

There is no global leadership now on addressing the problem. If the US and China could get together with political leaders and with scientific leaders and work out some common commitments on how to deal with global warming, the rest of the world would follow. This would be one way to bind our countries together in a much stronger way.

GT: You brokered the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Will there ever be a sustainable solution to the Middle East crisis?

Carter: I’ve written three books about this subject, and I am sure you know that there is no way Israel will have peace without making sure that Palestinians have justice, so the Palestinians have to be treated fairly. And the entire world, including China, the US and the UN, believes that Israel should withdraw from occupied territory and let there be a Palestinian state and an Israeli state with a mutual commitment to peace. That is the only solution to the problem.

My hope is that the Carter Center can help. With this, China is also using its influence in UN forums and also elsewhere to encourage a peace solution. I know how difficult it is. I worked on it all my life, all my political life.

We got peace between Israel and Egypt, and the other thing we agreed when I was meetings with the then leaders of Israel and Egypt was to give Palestinians full autonomy and that Israel should withdraw its military and economic and political forces from occupied territory. They have not yet done that. So the wars in Gaza so far have been very serious, a problem put on the entire world.

GT: What kind of roles can young people on both sides play in enhancing the bilateral relationship? What's your expectation for the First Forum for Young Chinese and American Scholars jointly organized by the Global Times foundation, the Carter Center and the school of management at Xi'an Jiaotong University?

When I opened up American universities to Chinese students, at Deng's request, we have never dreamed at this moment there would be 240,000 Chinese students in American institutions.

This is serving over a long period of time to bring our young people together, and I think they are future leaders of the world in the US and China. I am a college professor and I have been a professor at Emory University for 32 years. I teach many Chinese students every year. I see the eagerness they have to learn about my country and still retain their loyalty to China. When they come back to China they understand the US, and American students coming here also understand better about China. That's very important to me.

The Global Times foundation and the Carter Center have a partnership to encourage young people to study all these important forces that bring China and the US together. So to work with the Global Times foundation is a very important thing for us to encourage young people to promote peace, stability, economic progress, and mutual respect between our two great countries.

GT: You have had a very active retirement, writing more than two dozen books and working throughout the world to promote peace, democracy and reconciliation. You've made great contributions to the world in your presidency. Which period have you enjoyed most?

I think the retirement years. It gives me a chance through the Carter Center to work in 80 different countries, and we deal with freedom, peace, democracy, and alleviating and softening particular health fields. My wife is an expert in mental health. We go to the poorest countries on Earth, and work directly with people to alleviate their problems with a lack of freedom or with a lack of good healthcare.

When you reach retirement age, you have the freedom to not only work on new projects but also act and say according to what you truly believe. You don't have to worry about political consequences.

One of my goals for the rest of my life is to ensure that the dream Deng and I shared back in 1978 is realized among young people and political leaders of today and tomorrow.

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