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Talking To The People's Republic

With callers lighting up the switchboard, President Clinton fielded questions on a popular radio talk show today, bantering with Chinese citizens about the Asian economy, World Cup soccer and how he stays in shape.

The exchange was tame by U.S. standards.

CBS.com reports on President Clinton's trip to China

Mr. Clinton called the experience, his first talk show foray overseas, a "historic occasion" and suggested he'll do more of them to get a better idea of what ordinary citizens are thinking. He also vowed to work for more Chinese-American educational and cultural exchanges.

"The more we do these things, the more we will be able to work through our differences and build a common future," the president said. "And besides that, it will make life more interesting and more fun."

With the questions fed through an interpreter, the toughest came from host Zuo Anlong, dealing with Mr. Clinton's opposition back home and whether he had the courage to convince critics that his trip to China was the right thing to do.

President Clinton said his televised exchange on human rights with Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Beijing and the broadcast of the president's remarks at Peking University should quiet his critics.

"I think the American people will see when I go home that this was a good thing that I came here," Clinton said.

In Beijing, the Chinese government was already declaring the visit a success, though Clinton doesn't leave until Friday. Foreign Ministry spokesman Tang Guoqiang said it "deepened the American understanding of China."

Mr. Clinton's talk radio appearance followed a 90-minute session with Shanghai community leaders at the city's new Internet-connected library. They told him vast changes were occurring across Chinese society from the arts and media to business and law to religious practices.

Mr. Clinton agreed, saying there is "a new China emerging in the world that is more prosperous, more open and more dynamic."

Responding to a question, Clinton carefully spelled out U.S. policy toward Taiwan, a politically charged issue since China regards Taiwan as a renegade province. The president adhered to finely worded diplomatic language that broke no new administration ground, although it was the first time he had publicly stated the specific U.S. policy.

"We don't support independence for Taiwan, or two Chinas, or one Taiwan, one China," he said. "And we don't believe that Taiwan should be a member in any organization for which statehood is a requirement."

White House spokesman Mike McCurry said, "It's no surprise the United States would reiterate U.S. policy." But he acknowleged Taipei might be upset by Mr. Clinton's words, seeing it as leaning toward Beijing.

Radio call-in shows are popular in Shanghai and, like in America, cover topics from people's financial troubles to their love lives.

For an hour, callers jammed phone lines to Shanghai Peoples' Radio.

The "Citizens and Society" program featured Clinton and Shanghai Mayor Xu Kuangdi, who heads a city that is a Western-style economic engine dotted with skyscrapers and construction.

"Shanghai is truly the place where East meets West," Mr. Clinton told Xu later at an evening reception the mayor held for him at the city's new museum, centerpiece of its cultural and economic renaissance.

Talk show host Zuo noted that "ping pong" diplomacy in the early 1970s helped break the diplomatic ice between the United States and China and he asked if "soccer diplomacy" might work with Iran.

"I think it could be possible," Mr. Clinton said, noting the president of Iran "seems to be committed to not only lifting the economic and social conditions of his people, but also having a more regular relationship with the rest of the world."

President Clinton, accompanied by his daughter Chelsea, took a break from his meetings with politicians and business leaders in Shanghai, Tuesday morning. He and Chelsea made a visit to a traditional Chinese rock garden in Shanghai's Yu Gardens. The rock garden is a haven in the middle of rampantly modernizing, overbuilding Shanghai.

Written by Laura Myers.
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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