Ronald Reagan picture

Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the Trip to China

May 01, 1984

Q. What do you think of communism?

The President. Why am I still working and everybody's still eating?

Q. The Chinese Communists, what was your impression of them?

The President. Well, any communism—I obviously have never approved of the system, and they understand that we have our differences about it. However, I must say there—I think here—the modernization program, the thing we saw this morning and the indication of results are very—I was impressed with them, with what they are accomplishing with this modernization.

Q. How far do you think that can go?

The President. That's up to them, whether it runs into ideology or not.

Q. We asked Premier Zhao how he felt having you in his midst being such a virulent anti-Communist, someone in the past who has denounced his government. He said that you knew that ideology was not the basis for establishing relations one way or the other. What do you say?

The President. Well, I say that, too. And I tell you something that I think we ought to get clear about my position in the past on China. When Richard Nixon went there and made the opening, I immediately supported him in that and publicly went to bat for the value in doing what he was doing. And I think that we—there have been now three Presidents who—he opened it; two others have carried on, trying to further this relationship. And I think frankly that we arrived at a new level and a new stage now in the relationship. They understand where-how we feel—or where we feel about that system, but we understand how we feel about ours. But we still found there are areas of agreement with regard to peace, opposition to expansionism and hegemony, and we found we could agree on a great many things.

Q. How did they like preaching—your. preaching at them about democracy, God, capitalism, freedom?

The President. They never said any word about that, and I never put it as preaching to them. I—that was part of—I felt that if we're to get along, they've got to understand us and what we believe. That's why I did that.

Q. Do you think that they thought that you were trying to propagandize their people?

The President. I wasn't, and I and—evidently they took care of that in their own way. They just did not repeat that to their—to their people.

Q. What did Deng tell you about their relations with the Soviets? And there's a report that he said to you he understood our military buildup because of the problem with the Soviets. What did he say?

The President. Well, there's no question but there is—we've reached an understanding. There were some areas where they had misunderstandings, and we cleared those up. In these meetings today—in these last few days, why I say we reached a new plateau—we went beyond the nuts and bolts of a tax agreement or the things that we signed the other day—that was valuable. They are things that we—practical things that need to be done. But we moved into a level of general understanding about international relations there on the global level, regional spots of possible trouble, and so forth, and found ourselves in—in great agreement on many of those.

Q. What about the Russians? What did he say about the Soviets, their attitudes toward them and what we are doing in the way of buildup?

The President. Well, Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News], he certainly had no disagreement with us on what we're doing in our buildup. He was in agreement with that. I would rather not quote him on anything he might have said about another-about another government. That's up to them to keep their relations.

Q. You are always saying, Mr. President, that it's better to talk to people than about them.

The President. Yes.

Q. Will you talk to Castro, and will you talk to the Sandinistas, and will you talk to other Communist leaders?

The President. I, uh, no, I explained our Central America situation to them, and they understood—all of them that I talked to understood very well—when I pointed out that you had a reverse situation between the two countries there. You had one country in which the government was trying to help the guerrillas overthrow a duly elected government on the other side—and this is what we're objecting to-and the fact that the El Salvador Government has offered amnesty to the guerrillas and asked for them to participate in the electoral process. And the guerrillas have refused. On the other side in Nicaragua, the guerrillas, the contras, have asked to lay down their arms and participate in the democratic process, and the Government of Nicaragua has refused. It's a complete opposite situation in, in the two countries.

Q. What was your overall impression of the trip, your real feelings?

The President. Very good. I think they have an understanding and a confidence in us. They might not have had that confidence if I had backed down and not said things that I believed—and they likewise-and we went forward from there. I feel very good about it. I really believe we've reached a new level of understanding.

Q. They put you on television live in Shanghai but with no translation. You had to be able to speak English to understand you. [Laughter]

The President. I don't know whether they have any plans—I've heard that there's some speculation as to whether they have any plans to—

Q. Your speech to the university. They carried it live.

The President. Yes, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]?

Q. How did you feel personally, and were you able to carry on all the meetings and never get sleepy? And were you able to handle all that vigorous talking?

The President. You mean physically? Yes, I have to give—pay my compliments to that doctor who has written the book about conquering jet lag. We followed that program, and I have never made a trip across several time zone changes as successfully as this one has been with regard to instantly being on their time when we arrived. You see, under this doctor's plan, by the time we we arrived in China, for 2 days had been eating our meals on China time, so that it makes a great difference that when you get off, dinnertime is "the dinnertime that you've been on, and thus bedtime kind of automatically becomes the normal.

Q. By the way, there's a report that you're considering moving the U.S.. Embassy in Israel to west Jerusalem, sort of as a compromise. Are you considering such a change?

The President. I read these and was surprised, myself, to hear that there were some recommending that. No, I feel very strongly that this is not something we should do. This should be part of the negotiation. Jerusalem has to be part of the negotiations if we're to have peace talks.

Q. Did the trip change your thinking about China in any way?

The President. Not particularly. I've always had an admiration for the Chinese people no matter where they live. They've proven their great capabilities, their industry, and all of that. I was gratified by the warmth of the reception by all of the people.

Q. Tell us some of your thoughts about your discussion with Deng.

The President. What?

Q. Your thoughts about your discussion with Chairman Deng.

The President. Well, we moved right in, and I—we both expressed our feelings. And it was there particularly that I had an opportunity to correct some misapprehensions they had about us and what we were doing here or there in the world. I think the greatest indication of success was that the luncheon was supposed to be a working luncheon, that we were to continue. By the time we got to lunch we had closed out the agenda, and we had a social lunch.

Q. What were some of the misapprehensions you corrected?

The President. Well, things having to do with—such as our attitude in the Middle East and what our goals were. I don't think they quite understood how far we have gone in our relations with the Arab States in trying to bring about peaceful negotiations and so forth. And I think they were very pleased to hear that.

Q. Are you contemplating a speech to the American people on Central America? This keeps coming up.

The President. We've been talking about—no date or anything has been set. And I haven't put anything down on paper yet.

Q. Was there any mention of President Nixon in your meetings with the Chinese leaders? Did they say anything about him?

The President. Oh, I gave them orally his regards and greetings that he—I had talked to him as well as others before I came here, and he, knowing all of them—as you recall, Premier Zhao called on him while he was in America—and so I relayed his greetings to him.

Q. I know that you told them we would not abandon Taiwan, but did you give them any belief that we would reduce the arms sales to Taiwan at a quicker pace?

The President. No. No. Q. I didn't see you. Mrs. Reagan. I saw you.

Q. Did you buy anything for him yesterday?

Mrs. Reagan. No, I didn't, because you wouldn't give me the money, Sam.

Q. I always have had a yuan for you. [Laughter]

Mrs. Reagan. Oh, oh.

The President. Sam, wow! [Laughter]

The President. I have to tell you, though, speaking of quiet diplomacy, right in front of me, Chairman Deng invited her back to China—without me.

Q. I saw you sitting there feeling ignored while the two of them were having a tete-a-tete.

The President. Oh, they were having—yes, he made it very specific. Not me.

Q. Are you going to let her go?

Mrs. Reagan. That's all right, that's all right, honey. I'll tell you all about it. [Laughter]

Q. Are the Chinese people of their word—they went back on their word in terms of letting you project yourself to the people?

The President. Well, evidently, our people tell me there was never any negotiations about that or whether I would, whether anything they carried—whether it would be word for word or not. I don't feel—I feel that was their right to do, whatever their reasons may have been, and, uh, just as it was my right to say what I wanted to say when I was over there.

Q. Had you always intended to do it that way, because it was considered very bold to go into a country and say this is the way we are?

The President. Well, I thought that was part of the trip.

Mr. Speakes. 1 Thank you, sir.

1 Larry M. Speakes, Principal Deputy Press Secretary to the President.

The President. Frankly, I think it had something to do with a very favorable outcome. I think they believe in me, and they have confidence in me they might not have had if I had kind of tried to pretend I was something I wasn't.

Q. And do you think this will help your reelection?

The President. What?

Q. Your reelection?

The President. I would like to make one thing clear about this trip, Helen. Almost from the very first of my administration, there was an invitation to Zhao, and my statement—because there had been an invitation to me, immediately—and I said that I thought that after three Presidents—that protocol suggested that they come here, and then I would return the visit there. And the date for this thing was set a year ago or more, so, uh

Q. Then in terms of serendipity, do you think it will help? If it does, so be it?

The President. Well, I—I don't think it can hurt. But there certainly was never any consideration of this before, or with regard to election, because all of this was being arranged and was going on long before I'd ever got around to saying what I was going to do.

Mr. Speakes. Thank you, sir.

Q. What about Vice President Mondale's statement then this is a belated coming to grips with the Chinese problem on your part, that you're 25 years late in your coming to these views?

The President. Twenty-five years late? Would he suggest that we should have sat back and approved when they were calling us imperialist running dogs? You've got to remember that this has been a great change in the leadership and a change in the last

12 years in their position towards us. Q. There's another report-Mr. Speakes. Thank you.

Q.——that we are trying to get together with our allies to put more pressure on Qadhafi in some way to put him further back in that box.

The President. I don't know what's going on on the diplomatic level here, but I know that there are discussions going forward on this whole problem.

Mr. Speakes. Thank you.

Q. I thought you were conscious of saying what you wanted to say, that the speech you gave—you thought that out quite deliberately, about saying precisely what you wanted to say about America and so forth?

The President. Yes.

Q. And wrote a lot of that yourself?.

The President. I've always had a hand in what I say.

Mr. Speakes. Thank you, sir.

The President. All right, all right, it's lunchtime for me.

Note: The question-and-answer session was held on board Air Force One as the Presidential party was en route to Fairbanks, AK, from Shanghai, China.

As printed above, this item follows the text of the White House press release.

Ronald Reagan, Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the Trip to China Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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