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Rep. Pelosi Discusses U.S.-China Standoff Over Plane Collision

Aired April 12, 2001 - 10:53   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Representative Nancy Pelosi of California chairs the congressional working group on China, and she's been a leader in Congress in the fight to promote human rights in China. She joins us from San Francisco this morning.

Good to see you. Nice to have you with us this morning, and we thank you for being patient with us and bearing with us while we were covering some breaking news this morning.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: Very important.

HARRIS: Yes, exactly.

Let's talk about the U.S.-China relations. What's your assessment of how much damage has been done here?

PELOSI: Well, that remains to be seen. Much has been said about trade, human rights, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction that the Chinese had been engaged in. I think we have to take each of those issues one at a time.

Clearly, President Bush's success in bringing home the pilot and the crew is cause great jubilation for us as we approach Easter and depart from the Passover week. At this time, we're all delighted about that.

The pilot is a hero. He brought down that plane to a safe landing even though it was disabled, saving the lives of all 24 people on board, and he is to be commended, as is the rest of the crew.

I think that the praise that is being heaped on President Bush is indicative of the fact that he was dealing with a very unreliable international partner, as some have called them. I think it's clear that they are not our partners if they would hold our servicemen and - women for 10 minutes, much less 10 days.

HARRIS: Yes, I'm glad you brought that point up, because I was going to ask you this morning what your assessment of the relationship is. We heard President Bush, from the campaign, say that China is a strategic competitor, and not a partner here. How would you characterize them?

PELOSI: Well, they certainly are a competitor, and a competitor is not a bad thing. We're competitors too, throughout the world. But I think we have to be -- and I have no doubt that we will have a brilliant relationship with the Chinese people, diplomatically, culturally, economically, and in every way. But that can only happen when the regime respects its own people and when it respects us and is not taking our servicemen and -women and holding them against their will.

But of the issues that come up between our two countries, one, of course, is trade. When we first started our fight for human rights in China, at time of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the trade deficit we had with China was about $2 billion, and that was a lot of money. Now it's about $2 billion a week that we buy from the Chinese, resulting in about a $90 billion annual deficit with the Chinese. That's increased from a $2 billion to a $90 billion in the past 12 years, so it's certainly going in the wrong direction.

So on the trade issue, which will come up again this year, we thought that that was behind us because Congress had voted to give permanent normal trade relations to China, predicated on their honoring their commitments to join the World Trade Organization. Well, since they got the permanent normal trade relations status, they have not honored their bilateral commitment to us, or other commitments, to enable them to join the WTO. So that issue will be taken up again this year, and I think it will be viewed within the context of their responsibilities to the WTO. This will have some impact on it, but I think that it will be more objective, relating to that.

In terms of the Taiwan arm sales, the other big issue, I think, is that that judgment will be made in relationship to the Taiwan Relations Act, which says that we must assist Taiwan to have a sufficient defense of Taiwan, and that relates to the Chinese buildup across the Taiwan Straits.

HARRIS: I'm sorry to cut you off, but you list some very serious issues there and some substantial trade numbers, but it seems as though China's concern about the Olympics weighed more in this case than those other figures that you mentioned.

PELOSI: Well, the Chinese bid for the Olympics is one that's about face for them. Certainly, any country would be proud to host the Olympics. The Olympic charter calls for some respect for universal human rights, and I think it would be tarnished if they went to China. So that's why many of us in Congress oppose that.

Of course, that decision will be made by the International Olympic Committee, but I think they would tarnish their image if they chose China. I don't even think they have the facilities, so I think it's an elementary question to begin with.

HARRIS: Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, we thank you very much for your time this morning. We're going to have to truncate this discussion...

PELOSI: On this happy day when we celebrate the return.

HARRIS: All right. Well, listen: Thank you very much for your time this morning. We'll talk with you some other time, we hope.

PELOSI: Thank you.

HARRIS: Take care.

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