Document 4 of 8.
Copyright 1998 Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times
June 30, 1998, Tuesday,
SECTION: Part A; Page 10; Foreign Desk
LENGTH: 1088 words
CHINA IS ABUZZ OVER OPENNESS;
CULTURE: DISCUSSIONS OF ONCE-FORBIDDEN SUBJECTS RAISE HOPES FOR FURTHER
BYLINE: MAGGIE FARLEY, TIMES STAFF WRITER
President Clinton's taboo-breaking dialogue with Chinese President Jiang Zemin
and his later uncensored discussion with Beijing University students--both
sessions broadcast live nationwide--have sparked another debate here: Is this
the beginning of more openness in
"It is a turning point for our country," said
Huang Renwei, a professor of American Studies at Shanghai's Academy of Social
"It showed the two countries facing each other as equals, not only having a
conversation but respecting their different opinions. It seems to be a signal
that there can be more open discussion
In the first television appearance, Clinton broke China's nine-year silence
about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre to talk about the importance of human
rights during his news conference with Jiang. In Monday's speech at the
university, he again put an emphasis on human
Jiang parried by asserting that the crackdown, in which hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of pro-democracy, anti-corruption protesters were killed, preserved
the social stability that has improved the living conditions of millions of
Chinese in the last decade.
Beijing University students continued the frank exchange, asking Clinton
tough questions, while this nation watched, about perceived contradictions in
It was groundbreaking that the leaders were talking about such once-forbidden
subjects at all--and that a potential audience of 800 million Chinese citizens
could hear the results unedited. But more important, perhaps, is that the
sessions have raised expectations that such public discussions on such tough
issues can and should happen again.
"I think this nonscripted press conference is an innovation in China," said Zhang Guo Liang, deputy director of Fudan University's Journalism School.
"It has never happened like this in
China before, but I think that the practice will be expanded. This shows that
China is getting on the track of the international advanced way of doing things."
The sensation that has caused in China may be difficult for media-weary
Americans to understand. In Jiang's first live media session--during his visit to the United States in October--he read closely from prepared
tracts, and the footage was not broadcast in China until eight months later in
a special documentary aired earlier this month before Clinton's visit.
It was only in March that Chinese viewers
got their first break from carefully scripted evening news. They watched Zhu
Rongji, the nation's premier and its economic czar, answer questions and banter
briefly with reporters while the cameras rolled.
That session was so well received that Zhu's news conference is available on
video in local stores--and is
even being pirated.
But as spontaneous as those exchanges appeared, no piece of political theater
is truly without a script.
For Jiang, the open discussion was a carefully calculated challenge to China's
conservative leaders, who prefer that debate occur behind closed doors. Chinese
withheld permission for months for American television companies to broadcast
live footage from China during the summit before finally conceding. Jiang
himself is said to have made the decision to go live just hours before the news
It was the bold move of a man
in charge, a national leader finally secure in his power, Western analysts said
James R. Sasser, the United States ambassador to China, called Jiang's gauntlet
"He took a chance, not only with the Chinese people but perhaps
even with some of his own colleagues in the Chinese government," Sasser said.
Not all of the reviews were so positive.
"It is not necessarily a good thing," said engineer Luo Zhongbao, 32.
"Clinton is good at speaking--he has gone through two presidential elections.
not. . . . I don't think CCTV China's state-controlled television network will
play an unedited version again."
China's state-controlled media had mixed reactions Monday, indicating
uncertainty about how far and long the new openness will extend.
glossed over the leaders' controversial swerves toward Tiananmen and Tibet; a
few didn't mention the discussion of the long-banned topics at all.
But on Shanghai's Oriental Television news Monday night, a broadcaster
"The press conference showed the degree of openness of China and the
confidence of Chinese leaders."
Still, even as Chinese were abuzz about their possible version of glasnost, a
democracy activist who was trying to set up an opposition political party was
detained Monday by Chinese police--the latest dissident rounded up during
Clinton's visit. Plainclothes
police showed up at Wang Youcai's home in the eastern city of Hangzhou,
dissident groups in the United States and Hong Kong reported.
Wang had tried to register his China Democracy Party with Zhejiang provincial
authorities last week but was turned away. He had planned to try
again Monday afternoon, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights
and Democratic Movement said. His application was the first time Chinese
dissidents have openly tried to gain government approval for an opposition
party, the Washington-based
Free China Movement reported.
Wang was a
student leader in the democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He
spent 2 1/2 years in prison for helping lead the protests and has had repeated
run-ins with police ever since.
Today, the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement said that
released Wang after six hours of questioning but warned him that they would
take further action if he did not drop his plan to register the Chinese
Wang told police it was none of their business and that he will try again to
register the party with Zhejiang's provincial department of civil affairs, the
As for the import of the Clinton sessions, the big question now is if the
political discussions can continue.
"It was a significant starting point," said Huang, the Shanghai professor who advised Jiang before his trip to the
"The discussion will go on in some way, but
not so openly and not in every field. We are still focused on market reform and
economic development, and that will take 90% of our attention. We will keep 10%
focused on political issues."
* SOUTHLAND VISIT
Chinese government officials and entrepreneurs tour Glendale-based insurer.
GRAPHIC: PHOTO: (A10 Southland Edition) President Clinton responds to remarks made
after he donated American reference books to Beijing University's library.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Agence France-Presse
LOAD-DATE: June 30, 1998
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