Jiang Zemin Talks With Wallace

They Discuss Lincoln

In his recent interview, President Jiang told Wallace that accused spy Wen Ho Lee was not a spy for China.

"I can tell you frankly, China was not in any way involved in Wen Ho Lee's case," Jiang said during the interview. "But we do know that he is a scientist."

It is not strange, Jiang said, that Lee came to China and talked to Chinese scientists. "It's just as normal as some Chinese scientists travelling abroad," he said. "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. Today the Chinese still see Wen Ho Lee as a renowned scientist."

When Wallace said that Jiang seemed nervous for the first time in the conversation, Jiang laughed, adding that he was not nervous and he asked Wallace whether he thinks Wen Ho Lee is a spy. When Wallace declined to answer, Jiang chuckled some more.

Years ago when Jiang was a middle-school student learning English, he had studied the speeches of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. When he was a teacher, he used the Gettysburg Address in his course.

Wallace asked him about this, and Jiang offered to recite part of it.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," Jiang recited from memory.

Wallace asked him why he learned part that so well.

"I focused on the words, 'All men are created equal,'" Jiang said. "This had a great influence on students when I was young. And I think what Abraham Lincoln described still remains the goal of American leaders today."

"Especially the last paragraph, 'The government of the people by the people and for the people shall never perish from the earth,'" he added.

Wallace then asked Jiang about democracy: "Why is it that Americans can elect their national leaders, but you apparently don't trust the Chinese people to elect your national leaders? "

"I am also an elected leader, though we have a different electoral system," Jiang said. "Each country should have its own system because our countries have different cultures and historic traditions, and different levels of education and economic development."

Jiang was chosen by the top leaders of the Communist Party. Public elections occur only in some villages and small towns, and candidates must either be members of the Communist Party or run as independents.

Wallace asked Jiang why China had a one-party state. "Why must we have opposition parties?" Jiang responded. "You are trying to apply the American values and the American political system to the whole world. But that is not very wise."

"Let me be frank," Jiang said. "China and the United States differ greatly in terms of our values. You Americans always use your values in makig judgments about the political situation in other countries. We want to learn from the West about science and technology and how to manage the economy, but this must be combined with specific conditions here. That's how we have made great progress in the last 20 years."

China's standard of living has been rising dramatically. In China, as in America, the economy largely determines the level of the people's satisfaction with their government. Jiang maintains that the vast majority of Chinese believe a strong one-party rule is the best way to hold the huge population together and to keep the economy growing. Stability is the top priority, sometimes at the expense of human rights.

Wallace asked him about human rights and about the Chinese government's persecution of the religious group Falun Gong.

"Their leader, Li Hongzhi, claims to be the reincarnation of the chief Buddha, and also a reincarnated Jesus Christ," Jiang said. "Can you believe that? He said that doomsday was about to come and that the Earth was going to explode. In fact what he says are just fallacies to deceive people. But as a result of his preaching, many families were broken and many lives were lost. So after careful deliberations, we concluded that Falun Gong is an evil cult."

Jiang pointed out that no Falun Gong followers have ever been sentenced to death.

But 26 of them have reportedly died in police custody.

Jiang told 60 Minutes the Falun Gong has driven thousands of its members to commit suicide.

The Falun Gong said that's ridiculous - that it does not encourage suicide and that it's still going strong despite the Chinese government's efforts to quash it.

Asked about the Chinese government's persecution of Christians, Jiang said that Christians have not been persecuted in China, and that the constitution protects religious freedom, including Christianity. "But Falun Gong is a cult," he said. "It is totally different from Christianity."

Jiang has always favored tough government controls of the press. "The press," he said, "should be a mouthpiece of the Party."

"I think all countries and parties must have their own publications to publicize their ideas," Jiang told Wallace. "We do have freedom of the press, but such freedom should be subordinate to and serve the interests of the nation. How can you allow such freedom to damage the national interests?"

Wallace asked Jiang why it had blocked certain Internet sites, including the BBC's and the Washington Post’s.

"We hope people will learn a lot of useful things from the Internet," Jiang said. "However, sometimes there is also unhealthy material - especially pornography on the Internet - which does great harm to our youngsters."

Wallace pointed out that the BBC and The Washington Post sites did not have pornography. "They might be banned because of some of their political new reports," Jiang said. "We need to be selective. We hope to restrict as much as possible information not conducive to China's development."

China's previous leader, Deng Xiaoping, once said, "to get rich is glorious." Jiang said that while this outlook does allow some people to become wealthy before others, "The ultimate objective is prosperity for all."

Wallace asked him if he thought America was more decadent than China.

"Let me put it this way," Jiang said. "Due to many differences between our countries in historical traditions, ways of life, religious beliefs, etc., things you don't regard as decadent in the States, we may regard as decadent in China. That's why we have to be very selective."

When he travels to America, Jiang will meet with American business leaders to urge them to increase their investments in China. Corporate America has long lusted after China's billion-buyer market, but China still sells a lot more to the United States than America sells to that country.

In effort to change that, the White House has said that if the U.S. Senate approves permanent normal trade relations with China, as the House already has, that would force China to reduce tariffs and trade barriers, and therfore to buy more American goods.

Jiang wants normal trade relations, too, and he ended the interview by underscoring that point.

"I'm convinced that this interview will further promote the friendship and mutual understanding between our two peoples," said Jiang, who told Wallace that he admires America. "I want to promote mutual understanding between our two peoples."

Go back to the first part of the story.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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