Seal of the Department of Defense U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
On the Web:
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public contact:
or +1 (703) 571-3343

Central Party School
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Beijing, China, Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Good morning.  It’s a pleasure to be with you.  I’m looking forward to hearing from you and responding to your questions.  But first, I’d like to comment on the remarkable changes I’ve seen since I first visited China, and about some of the challenges I see ahead.

I first came to your country in 1974, with then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, when I was White House Chief of Staff for President Gerald Ford.  It was so many decades ago that:

  • President Hu Jintao was then a young engineer;
  • President George W. Bush was a graduate student at Harvard studying business;
  • And a factory worker from Sichuan had recently returned to politics.  His name was Deng Xiaoping.

Of course, a great deal more has changed in the world than just its leadership, and perhaps the most important changes have involved the way people in many nations are deciding how to govern themselves.

While there is no one model that is perfect for every nation at every time in its development, a look across the globe suggests that societies that tend to encourage more open markets and freer systems are societies where the people are enjoying the greatest opportunities.

Most of the nations in Asia understand that.  We need look no further for examples than the southern half of the Korean peninsula, or the “tigers” of Southeast Asia.

Your country as well has undergone significant changes since I first came here more than three decades ago, as economic reforms have unleashed the engines of entrepreneurship and more than quadrupled your Gross Domestic Product.

We in the United States are pleased to have a constructive relationship with your country and would welcome a peaceful and prosperous China -- one that is a major contributor to international progress.

Indeed, in an era of increasing globalization, threats such as nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and infectious diseases – are transnational in nature, and require cooperative efforts.

China, with its tremendous economic growth and many new trading partners, is today a major player in that multinational system and, as such, must increasingly take a share of responsibility for the international system’s health and success.

While the United States seeks cooperation with China, we also approach our relationship realistically.  Our relationship is a complex one, with its share of challenges.

Many countries, for example, have questions about the pace and the scope of the China’s military expansion.

A growth in China’s power projection understandably leads other nations to question China’s intentions, and to adjust their behavior in some fashion.

The rapid, non-transparent nature of this buildup contributes to their uncertainty.

Other actions – such as China’s pursuit of regional institutions that exclude other Pacific nations such as the United States – also lead others to wonder about China’s intentions.

And it raises questions about whether China will make the right choices -- choices that will serve the world’s real interests in regional peace and stability.

History suggests that greater openness in the military and economic fields are related, in the end, to openness in the political sphere.

China’s future prosperity -- and to some degree the future of other nations’ attitude about China -- may well depend on an internal political events here.

Every society has to be vigilant against another type of great wall that can be a burden on man’s talents and is born from a fear of them -- a wall that limits speech, information, and choices.

Yet it is impossible, in practical terms, to isolate any people for long.  Eventually information seeps through.  And when those inside that wall glean insights about the world that they discover are notably different from what they have been taught and led to believe, the effect can prove dramatic.

As I look at all of you, it occurs to me that in many ways China’s future depends on decisions you will make as your country’s next generation of leaders.

I’ve had the opportunity to serve in America’s legislative and executive branches of government.  As a public official, I’ve been on the receiving end of tough questions by constituents, legislators, and voters.

I’ve seen the voters at many elections make something of a statement about the recent past, and about the kind of future they envision and expect -- about their own hopes and aspirations for themselves, their families, and for their country.

So today, permit me to ask these questions of you:  What kind of future do you envision?

  • What role will you have in helping the Chinese people achieve the political and economic benefits to which they aspire?
  • What future will you help bring for China as a constructive partner in the international system?
  • When the China of tomorrow comes, what will you tell your children and your great grandchildren of the role you played during your lives in helping to build it?

The Constitution of the United States begins with but three simple words:  “We the People.”

That powerful phrase expresses the fundamental notion that the people tell our government what it can do, not the other way around.

Behind that notion is the concept that our government exists to allow the people to realize their full potential and the hope that people will work together to the benefit of all -- an ideal that was not born in America, and a hope that is not limited to Americans.

It is for you, not others, to choose China’s course.  My hope is that whatever course you may select it will be one that allows our two countries to work together with mutual respect and friendship.

I know that is the desire of the American people.  I hope and trust that it will be your desire as well.

Thank you.  I’d be happy to respond to some questions.