Ronald Reagan picture

Toasts of the President and Premier Zhao Ziyang of China at the State Dinner

January 10, 1984

The President. Premier Zhao and distinguished guests, this house has been the scene of many an historic occasion, and tonight we celebrate another milestone. Premier Zhao, you are the first Chinese head of government to visit the United States, and we're honored to welcome you.

The magnitude of America's esteem and respect for Chinese civilization may not be fully understood in China today. As a boy going to school in a small town in our Midwest, I learned of the venerable Chinese culture, and it seemed then that China was a million miles away. Today our children are still taught about the great contributions China has made, and yet as we approach the 21st century, our young people think of your country as only hours away by jet plane. Technology has made us neighbors. It's up to us to make certain that we're also friends.

Mr. Premier, your visit gives me the opportunity to express the great value I place on the positive and expanding ties between our two countries. Our cooperation helps the well-being of both our peoples to blossom and serves the cause of world peace. Good will and friendship do not always, as we've found, bring agreement on every issue. But friendship gives us the freedom to disagree, even to criticize without fear of lessening cooperation in our many areas of mutual interest.

Let us always remember that open and frank dialog is the foundation that supports the bridge between us.

Mr. Premier, I remember well our last discussions in Cancun 2 years ago. I am grateful for the progress that we've made since then and look forward to even greater cooperation in the years ahead. I'm particularly pleased with the wide-ranging and constructive discussions that we enjoyed today. It was certainly a promising omen for the future and a positive way to begin a new year. Of course, the Chinese new year will not come for several weeks, but this past Year of the Pig has proven that we can feast together at the table of cooperation.

There's reason for optimism, but we must look past tomorrow and the day after and prepare with mutual trust and confidence for the next century. The bonds between our two proud and independent nations can be made a wellspring of hope and progress, of security and prosperity.

We've been watching with interest and admiration your efforts to modernize by offering incentives to your people in stimulating economic competition. We have been pleased to contribute what we could as you expand the vistas of economic opportunity for the Chinese people.

Tonight we congratulate you, Premier Zhao, for the part that you're playing in the rebirth of China's economy. Before ascending to your current position, you were a leading force in turning around the economic decline of Sichuan. Under your guidance, the province went from stagnation to vibrancy, from hunger and food importation to abundance and the export of grain. In fact, I understand that because of the work you did there it is said in China, "If you want rice, go see Zhao." [Laughter]

Ladies and gentlemen, to give you an idea of the significance of the Premier's economic achievements, Sichuan Province, which the Premier managed for 4 years before moving to Beijing, has a hundred million people, making it the most populous province in China and bigger than all but seven of the countries of the world. The Premier is now putting that same creativity to work on a national basis.

Premier Zhao is also known for his personal commitment to vigorous physical exercise. Tonight I would ask all of you to join me in a toast to his health and to the health of China's other distinguished leaders and to peace, prosperity, and friendship between the Chinese and American people.

The Premier. Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen, from the very beginning of my visit to your country, I have been warmly received. I am greatly honored to be invited to this grand state dinner tonight. Please allow me, on behalf of my colleagues and in my own name, to express our hearty thanks to the President and Mrs. Reagan, to the U.S. Government, and friends from all circles.

Five years ago, the normalization of Sino-U.S. relations gave the people of both our countries great joy and made a far-reaching impact on the world situation. Over the past 5 years, Sino-U.S. relations have gone through twists and turns, with both advances in many fields and difficulties and obstacles cropping up along the way. The jolts and uncertainties in Sino-U.S. relations do not serve the interests of the two peoples, nor those of world peace. We hope that this disturbing situation will soon be brought to an end.

Our two sides share the desire to develop Sino-U.S. relations. I appreciate what President Reagan said, to the effect that China and the United States are destined to grow stronger through cooperation, not weaker through division. I believe that both the Chinese and American peoples hope to see advances in our friendship through joint efforts and not the undermining of our friendship by aggravation of our differences. The Taiwan issue is the major difference between China and the United States, or in other words, the principal obstacle to the growth of Sino-U.S. relations. I hope that our two sides will strictly abide by the principles guiding our bilateral relations, which we jointly established in the Sino-U.S. communiques, and fulfill the commitments each of us has undertaken, so that our differences may be resolved.

The world today is still in turbulence. The confrontation between the two military blocs has become sharper, while the North-South contradictions are not yet resolved. Before the flames of one aggressive war are extinguished, those of another have started raging. The grim reality constrains everybody to worry about the future of the world. It also heightens the sense of responsibility and urgency of all the peace-loving countries and people for the maintenance of world peace. China will work in concert with them to ease international tension, stop the arms race, oppose power politics, and maintain world peace.

China has always been opposed to arms race, particularly nuclear arms race, and stands for the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons. We have long declared that China will never be the first to use nuclear weapons. We are critical of the discriminatory Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, but we do not advocate or encourage nuclear proliferation. We do not engage in nuclear proliferation ourselves, nor do we help other countries develop nuclear weapons. We actively support all proposals that are truly helpful to realizing nuclear disarmament, terminating the nuclear arms race and eliminating the threat of nuclear war.

[At this point, the Premier paused, and his interpreter addressed the dinner guests as follows.]

Interpreter. Ladies and gentlemen, there's some changing in the last paragraph, so I have to translate it.

"Today I have had talks with President Reagan and some of his Cabinet members in a friendly and candid atmosphere. These talks have helped to enhance our mutual understanding, and both sides have expressed a desire to further develop Sino-U.S. relations. We both agreed that there are great potentials for economic and technological cooperation between our two countries, and are willing to take a positive attitude to further increase our cooperation.

"I sincerely hope that my visit and President Reagan's visit to China in April will help to promote steady and durable growth of Sino-U.S. relations on the basis of the five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, noninterference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. This will serve the interest of our two peoples and that of world peace."

The Premier. Allow me to propose a toast to the health of the President and Mrs. Reagan, to the health of the Vice President and Mrs. Bush, to the health of all our friends present here, to the happiness of the American people, to the friendship between the Chinese and American peoples, and to world peace!

Note: The President spoke at 10 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. The Premier spoke in Chinese, and a translation of his remarks was provided to the dinner guests. As printed above, the remarks follow that text, except where modifications were made by the Premier's interpreter, as indicated.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts of the President and Premier Zhao Ziyang of China at the State Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives