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Since President Richard Nixon's breakthrough trip to China in 1972, officials, scholars, and commentators have sought labels and frameworks to categorize and understand the U.S.-China relationship.
After working in the Departments of State and Treasury earlier in his career, at the beginning of the George W. Bush administration Robert Zoellick was confirmed as the United States trade representative, where he oversaw China's entry into the World Trade Organization. Then in 2005, he became the deputy secretary of state and urged China publicly to become a "responsible stakeholder" in the international system that created the conditions for the country's rise. Following his appointment as president of the World Bank in 2007, Zoellick was in a position to interact with China, its officials, and policies in a uniquely nuanced way.
James Green: Welcome to the U.S.-China Dialogue Podcast from Georgetown University. This podcast series explores diplomacy and dialogue between China and the United States during the four decades since normalization of relations in 1979. We'll hear from former ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, and White House advisors -- who will share how they shaped the course of the most complex relationship in international diplomacy today. I'm your host, James Green.
Today on the podcast, we talk with former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.
Candidate George W Bush ran for president in 2000 labeling China as a "strategic competitor," in contrast to the outgoing Clinton Administration's talk of building a "strategic partnership." During the first few months of the Bush Administration, parts of the US Government began shifting policy to reflect those new views of looming competition with China. Then came Sept 11, 2001. U.S. foreign and defense policy reoriented massively towards the Global War on Terror and Afghanistan. President Bush spoke with emotion about the attacks during his first overseas trip -- to Shanghai in October 2001 for a regional APEC leaders meeting.
President Bush: The attacks of September 11th took place in my country, but they were really an attack on all civilized countries. The roll of the dead and the missing includes citizens from over 80 nations: 96 Russians, 23 Australians, at least 30 Chinese.
James Green: Bob Zoellick joined the George W Bush Administration as the United States Trade Representative at a time of uncertainty about global commerce and international institutions. He went on to become Deputy Secretary of State and from that position gave an influential speech in 2005 on China's role in the world. In that address, he urged China to become a responsible stakeholder in the international system -- which then sent Chinese officials and researchers scrambling to identify those terms and concepts in Mandarin. What is a "stakeholder"? they asked, and who decides which countries are "responsible"?
But we begin our conversation with Ambassador Zoellick's first trip to Hong Kong in 1980, his work for the George HW Bush Administration at the Treasury and State Departments, and the contours of dealing with China in the twilight of the Cold War.
Ambassador Robert Zoellick, thank you so much for taking time to contribute to this project. Before getting to your time at the Department of State, and the USTR and at the World Bank, I wanted start with your first trip to Hong Kong in 1980. What were you doing there, and what struck you as interesting?
Robert Zoellick: Well, I had just been married and I was there on a fellowship, and, I was there as part of the Luce Program, and then I was only there about four or five months, but we were both teaching at a small college, which offered some interesting insights because this was a just a couple of years after Deng Xiaoping's, opening. We also took the opportunity to go to Macau, and from Macau we spent a one day visit within, the People's Republic. and that was a wonderful vantage point for my work in the future because I got a personal view of what China looked like in 1980, and can see the huge changes that took place afterwards.
We went to a communal farm, I remember a lotta people dressed in gray and blue, there was a lot of poverty. There was a small city, its name I don't remember, but it was a, basically a concrete city, looked like a lot of, instead of, s- water and sewage along the way, and, so, everything was, was pretty poor, but people were enthusiastic, and, so, I'm really delighted or glad that I had that opportunity.
James Green: And later on when you met with the very senior Chinese officials and when you're with the World Bank, did you find it useful to kind of pull out your history-
Robert Zoellick: Of course-
James Green: ... of going-
Robert Zoellick: ... I mean-
James Green: ... to China, and then, uh-
Robert Zoellick: And of course people were interested that, that, that I had had a chance to see China because, you know, one of the issues about China is that particularly for Westerners that just to go to Beijing or Shanghai you don't really have a sense of, of the huge transformation within a generation or two, and the Chinese do know this obviously. And in some ways, some people are misled actually still by how the Chinese leadership kind of views their challenges. I mean these are people, some of them that spent time in the Cultural Revolution in caves. Now, that gives them some sense about upheaval, and the f- dangers of upheaval, but it also gives them a sense of pride in how far they've come, which is, justly deserved.
Robert Zoellick: When I was at the World Bank I made a real effort to try to visit, a number of provinces including poor rural areas to try to get a better sense of some of the challenges that China's leadership faces internally. And that's still an issue today because again, in the U.S. and elsewhere people look at China's external behavior, it's understandable, but it's important to keep in mind that China's leaders are busy trying to think how they deal with these 1.3, 1.4 billion people.
James Green: So you were, hmm, a close advisor to Secretary Baker at both treasury and at state could you talk a little bit about his November trip in 1991?
Robert Zoellick: I think it's important to see the context. The context of course was that, Secretary Baker used to refer to President Bush as the desk officer for China-
James Green: (laughs)
Robert Zoellick: ... so he was the one that was personally interested in maintaining this relationship. And, and when people look at foreign affairs issues they often sort of segment them. It's important to realize at the same time that we were sort of dealing with the changes and a great transformation in Eastern Europe, and, and then obviously in Germany and German unification, you had Tiananmen Square in June.
Robert Zoellick: President Bush was committed to trying to maintain the relationship. The visit I think comes out of also the Gulf War. So remember Baker and Bush put together this extraordinary coalition to counter Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, and China is a member of the UN Security Council, it's a factor to think about at least. And there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, which is actually discussed, I think, quite well in Baker's book about being Secretary of State, about trying to get the Chinese to either vote yes or to at a minimum abstain on the key resolutions.
Robert Zoellick: And, and as part of this the Chinese want sanctions lifted, they want the President to visit, they want Secretary Baker to visit. There's ... They want to have their own meetings with the President, and, so it's this kind of the, the nuts and bolts of diplomatic maneuvering.
James Green: Sorry, when you say sanctions just to be clear you're talking about U.S. sanctions on China because of the Tiananmen crackdown.
Robert Zoellick: U.S. economic sanctions, yes. And the other context that is important was the Congress wanted to do much more to cut off the relationship. So Bush is pushing back against the Congress. We arrive I think late, I think it's November of, of, of '91, and, and, we were uncertain. Baker had said in advance that for the visit to be successful there would need to be certain actions taken, and the Chinese were very reserved about this, I think this is part they're negotiating, but also I think probably their own internal issues.
Robert Zoellick: Baker has a series of meetings, with Li Peng, the Prime Minister, with the President Yang and others, and there's not much yielding at all. The one person that shows a little bit of sensitivity to the events of Tiananmen Square is Jiang Zemin. President Bush has given Secretary Baker a letter to try to take to see Deng Xiaoping, we do not see Deng Xiaoping. This system has been heavily closed down, and people, they're probably reciting the lines for their colleagues as much as they're reciting it for us, but also, you know, they -- even today, I think it's important to recognize that Xi Jinping and the leadership look upon the end of the Soviet Union with shock and uncertainty about how communist systems can come to an end.
Robert Zoellick: So we were there about three days, and Baker keeps making the point that we're going to need to show some progress on these issues, or he'll leave and there'll be just determined a failure, and, the Congress will probably take the issue away from the, from the President. As one looks back on the agenda we were focusing a number on the proliferation issues, and again, as people think today about, you know, whether cooperation with China has produced any results they tend to ignore the gains we had on nonproliferation in missiles where China in the '80s was one of the worst proliferators within the Middle East, and Pakistan and others.
Robert Zoellick: The Chinese show some movement on these issues instead of initial sense, I think it becomes important over time. And the trade issues, there's some ... They really .. starting the process that will proceed through APEC and eventually the WTO on intellectual property and other terms the Chinese at this time are demanding just to be set into the, come into the WTO, and they were far from qualifying, But then also human rights. And, they, the Chinese are very grudging on this, they accept that some of the people who've served their terms, can sort of leave China. They accept that they respond partially to some of the lists that we provided just as had been provided to the Soviets in the Cold War. And they do agree to an ongoing dialogue and discussion on the human rights issue, so it's thin gruel, but there's something to be said about the results. And it fit again, the strategy we're trying to pursue of shape Chinese behavior, integrate them into the system, recognize and support sort of, and move towards a, an economic reform process with, with the belief that this can also try to support, a more open society.
James Green: You had mentioned the Cold War and the end of the Cold War during that time, where did China fit in? In German reunification, in, other parts of the NATO Alliance, and how would you kind of assess, where it was in the kind of foreign policy apparatus? How you kind of assess where China fit in at the moment?
Robert Zoellick: It's mainly a, a shock to show the downside risks that could occur. There could have been a Tiananmen Square in Leipzig, in late in '89, and it was always a worry that we had, whether it's in the Baltic states or within the Soviet Union itself. China goes into its own shell after '89, and the main action becomes the efforts of President Bush and his administration to try to keep some ties, going, and this is of course dealing with Congress.
Robert Zoellick: The one other point of this that with the end of the Cold War you're realizing the ice is breaking in many spheres. You know, I always try to look at China in the larger context of our Asian relations, so we'd had security alliances obviously with South Korea, with Japan, Australia, Thailand, the Philippines, but we had some concern with the new environment that we needed to create an economic fabric that kept the United States engaged in addition to the security terms. That was of course one reason we pushed for the creation of APEC, and so we're seeing this in an Asia-Pacific context.
Robert Zoellick: The other small reminder I have is that, I think one of the other people you've interviewed is Stape Roy and Stape, Stape had been brought in as the executive secretary at the start of the Bush 41 administration, and he actually reported to me
Robert Zoellick: But Stape obviously was an extraordinarily, China hand going back to a missionary family. And as one way of trying to, frankly, recognize his performance, late in that period we, we nominated Stape to be the ambassador, to China. And I recall he started to identify as Zhu Rongji in '92, and sort of urged me to come. frankly given the environment from '89 to '91, and the toughness of that visit, it wasn't the first on my agenda. In retrospect I've often thought, oh, it would have been interesting to meet, Jong, Zhu Rongji at those periods.
James Green: In 1992, yeah, sure. Well let's, fast forward to your time in which Zhu Rongji was the principal actor, that is the bilateral WTO accessoion, negotiations happened in the Clinton administration, and then when you came in 2001 as USTR you were doing the plurilateral process.
James Green: There were some in the incoming Bush administration who were talking about China as a strategic competitor and then 9/11 kind of changed the framework with which much of the foreign policy apparatus happened. From your perch at USTR, how did you kind of see that talk of a strategic competitor, and did you notice any change of, kind of, post 9/11 in regards to China specifically?
Robert Zoellick: I've always found it possible to keep two different ideas in my mind at once, and, so the strategic competitor came out of some discussions I remember we had with then Governor Bush, and George Schultz was there. So we're alert to the notion of a strategic competition, at the same time we believe that you could try to integrate China more effectively into the global system, by the way I think both those still apply today. This idea that you can disconnect or decouple from China I think is unrealistic, and also not productive for our U.S. interests.
Robert Zoellick: Because of my sorta strategic interest in China, my knowledge of it, and recognizing what the Clinton administration had done with the bilateral agreement, and you undoubtedly know this story of how that was sort of rejected and then put back on form.
Robert Zoellick: I put a priority on this early on, and so I actually surprised, I think it was, he was then Yang Jiechi was the ambassador, and I asked him to come in, and I remember he told me later they were quite surprised that very early in the administration I was focused on trying to sort of move along what would be the multilateral aspects. So when a country joins the WTO, they do bilateral accords for market access with all the other countries. Those are available under most favored nation provisions with others. But there's also a series of rules related to the multilateral system.
Robert Zoellick: Another point going back to the experience this shows the, the continuity of this with the point that I had made about APEC in '91, '92. Was remember, we're also negotiating to bring Taiwan into the WTO.
Robert Zoellick: And there was a lot of sensitivity, you know, going back to the time of, Baker's was in '91, the Chinese were adamant that they must come into the WTO before Taiwan, we wanted to do it simultaneously. You never were certain whether there'd be some last minute hiccup, so you're trying to keep these sort of two on track. We start the process, and there's always as in these situations there were some particular issues with some countries.
Robert Zoellick: We were alert to the notion that while China was still poor in developing it was big. And, so there were places where we wanted to try to frankly massage the rules to give us some cushion, and one of those actually is in the area of agricultural subsidies. There, there are provisions, without getting into all the nitty-gritty details that allow developed countries to have sort of a de minimis amount of subsidy at a 5% level, for developing countries it's 10%, and one of our objectives was to try to lower that, which we did do, and actually in recent years this kind of actually limited the Chinese in some degree.
Robert Zoellick: Then we had the EP-3 plane incident, so where the, there's a crash of the, the American plane with a Japanese [Chinese] fighter plane, that fighter pilot is killed. The B-3 lands in Hainan, and it's a, it's a crisis because there's no response and we have to get the plane back. And I remember, then asking President Bush, you know, do you want me to keep this on track, do you want me to keep moving this forward this year, because one of the challenges in policy ... To get things done you actually have to anticipate, and, so to try to get this done by the end of 2001 when there will be another, there's supposed to be another, WTO a ministerial required, moving through the milestones, and, and it was quite interesting. President Bush said, you know, "Our policies is to try to integrate, you know, now and then we'll have difficulties, but yes, you should continue to bring them in."
Robert Zoellick: Then we have September 11th, so we have another sort of striking event, and, this adds to the complexity because remember at this time I'm trying to get the trade promotion authority through, I'm trying to launch this global round at Doha, I'm trying to m- deal with the free trade area of the Americas, some bilateral agreements to create some leverage, it's a busy time. And, what happened after 9/11 was that we had a APEC meeting that was in Shanghai as I recall. When I arrived in Shanghai I had somebody the next morning come to my door and say, "You know, you may have been exposed to, biological materials.", 'cause there was this question about powders and so on and so forth, so it gives people a sense you've got a few things going on your plate.
Robert Zoellick: What worked well was the negotiation, was that we were doing this quietly with the Chinese. So we'd have APEC meetings during the day, and then in the evening to some hour, late hours in the night we'd be negotiating separately on what we thought were kind of the final sort of closing issues. The reason I mentioned that was that I had no public pressure at all to deliver a deal 'cause no one even knew we were trying to close the deal. And, so the Chinese you could see were under much more pressure than I was, which is a better place to be as a negotiator.
Robert Zoellick: One of the other issues, just to give you a little sense of detail was, at that time the AIG was, the, highly aggressive about its position, and they were frustrated I think with what Jeff or some of his team were doing. And they, they got quite hot and sometimes American companies will do this, and accused, the U.S. team of being traitors and so on and so forth, this was after 9/11.
Robert Zoellick: And so it's interesting, I called Hank Greenberg who's not a shrinking violet, and I said, "Hank, you know, if your people ever do this again ... ", and I said, " ... I wanna have an apology." I said, "Your people have no business calling my people traitors. After 9/11 they're, you know, serving the country's interest, they're under sort of great stress, and frankly this is outrageous, and fra- I'm not going have my people ever talk to your people again unless you apologize, and I don't want to ever hear this again.", and Hank backed down. So, it's a little insight because you're, you're negotiating with the Chinese, you're negotiating with Congress, you're negotiating with business groups, all simultaneously in these situations.
Robert Zoellick: What I recall was we, we had reached what I thought was sort of terms with the Chinese on these remaining issues, and, and they were, they said they had to check, and we were gonna be flying back to the United States. And again, I didn't feel any need to sort of release something, but the Chinese obviously were so excited then they released it, and, so when I was flying back it became a front page sort of New York Times story. So the lion's share of the work went into the bilateral negotiations that the Clinton administration had done, and those were the prime market access points, but these were kind of some of the foundation stones for working with China in the future.James Green: Thanks. I was actually in Shanghai, I was at the embassy at the time, and was sent down to Shanghai to work both on the MRT, when you and Jeff and the rest of the team came out, and then also for the leaders meeting. I remember ... I'm sure you, you weren't told this and you probably shouldn't have been, but you're a big runner, I presume you still are, very-
Robert Zoellick: Well, I have now a back injury, so yeah-
James Green: I'm sorry, at the time a very serious runner. This is Shanghai 2001, let's just say there weren't a lot of foreigners running around the streets of Shanghai. And I remember you're ... Basically the Chinese hadn't hosted a multilateral event at the leader level ever before APEC in 2001, and so they use the MRT. The, the Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting-
James Green: as their security example of, okay, here's how we're going to protect these heads of government or heads of state, they're going come for the APEC leaders meeting in October, and, so they treated you basically as a head of state or head of government for their own security practicing reasons. And, so I remember the first day, the morning you got up at, I don't know, 5:00 in the morning and went running on the streets of Shanghai, and then that night one of the security officers came to me and said, " please, you need to tell your minister do not go jogging, it's very dangerous on the streets of Shanghai." And I said, "There's no way I'm going tell him not to run. If he wants to run, he needs to run." And, so sure enough the next morning one of their security guards was ready, had his shoes on, (laughs) and then was able to keep up with you for that time on the street.
Robert Zoellick: Well, that's interesting. I remember once they had a fellow, they also a scooter support, and I remember finding it was kind of frustrating in that this, this guy ran for a while, then got on the scooter and then as we got near the end he got off the scooter as like he's running ahead of me, and it's like-
James Green: (laughs)
Robert Zoellick: ... he's cheating in the race. So you, you-
James Green: I think it was that-
Robert Zoellick: ... learn something-
James Green: ... trip-
Robert Zoellick: (laughs)
James Green: ... I remember that. (laughs)
Robert Zoellick: So, but anyway it's-
James Green: You had mentioned that Doha, you were trying to relaunch the round to get a lot of the issues on the table that in the end kind of weren't put into an agreement. Can you talk a little about what you were trying to do in Doha, and, and how you saw a relationship between m- not China specifically, but kind of updating the rules to, accommodate where nations were in, in, in the 2000s?
Robert Zoellick: Yeah, it's a big topic, but, and, and, because of the interest of developing countries, it had a big initial focus on agriculture. So not only disciplining subsidies, we wanted to discipline EU subsidies and other subsidies, others wanted to discipline our subsidies, but also market access because the United States and agriculture is a combination of offensive and defensive positions. Our manufacturing tariffs are already relatively low, and, so again, another key point was that we didn't have much room to lower unless we got some of the bigger developing countries to lower. And one of the problems you could see in the Doha Round, which now everybody acknowledges, but at the time some of the countries tried to deny, is you get Special and Differential Treatment.
Robert Zoellick: You get in a sense some room to have a higher barriers if you're developing countries, and frankly s- you could see some of the larger, bigger middle income countries we're gonna become fierce competitors, and they tried to act as if they were Sub-Saharan Africa, right? But to be honest the Chinese, eh, the Chinese had accepted much stronger market access terms than say the Indians and Brazilians, and so on and so forth, China is a latecomer into the system. and, and then in addition to manufacturing because, the U.S. and advanced economies have a large service sector you needed to just to have rules and services, you needed to strengthen intellectual property rights, and always, as through today the dispute resolution mechanism, what would be the rules and others, so there's a variety of different components.
Robert Zoellick: Just jumping ahead a little bit, how we worked with China in 2001 and afterwards actually become significant in that the, the Doha Round gets off track in a Cancun meeting, but the Chinese at this point, we're not the obstructive parties. and the Chinese had a position which I understood, which is they had actually contributed a lot recently in market access, they weren't eager to do more, but they were willing to be supportive. And, what I remember in particular is that in 2003, after the m- round had crashed in Cancun I made an effort to restart the round, eh, and we actually put together quite a successful, package at that point in Geneva.
Robert Zoellick: And, because of my seniority in the U.S. position I would, in some ways I was coordinating different people in this, and, I had a good relationship with the Chinese. And, so, you know, at points if I needed to say to the Chinese, look, I may need you to be a little bit more forthcoming on this they would say, they would consider it. So they were, compared to, India and Brazil, and some other players, they, they were more willing to try to make the system work.
James Green: One of the things that this administration, the Trump administration had said was that it, the U.S. had erred in letting China into the WTO. How do you respond to that, that kind of comment?
Robert Zoellick: Well, it's flat wrong.
Robert Zoellick: I mean, you know, until the Trump administration China was the largest growing source of, for American exports. so if you, if you think American farmers don't need to sell, if you think that a lot of the businesses there that are making more money in China than elsewhere don't need to do business. There are problems which we can talk about, which, you know ... And, in general what you saw from the Chinese, accession was that they were pretty diligent about the quantitative measures, so their tariffs being lower, the, the, the measures dealing with, quotas. on issues that are, r- responsibilities that are a little harder to quantify -- intellectual property rights enforcement, not just the rules, forced technology transfer, these are the, the sub- subsidies arrangements -- these become not surprisingly an ongoing need to push and identify and negotiate. Now, but frankly this is where people have a narrow view, that's true with other countries too, and it's true with the United States on occasion.
Robert Zoellick: It's hard for me to see the coherence of the current administration's policies because it's basically to raise tariffs, and it's not even clear how the tariffs are gonna be related to the serious problems that I just outlined in a speech last night. So, I think more generally, people in the administration don't like the WTO because they don't like the dispute settlement mechanism. They, they ... Eh, this is an irony, the starting in the Reagan administration, Bush 41 administration, Clinton administration, pushed for a WTO dispute settlement mechanism that overcame the flaw of the GATT system. So the GATT system, which had begun in 1947 had dispute panels, but a country could always block it, so it was sort of rule of law unless a country didn't like it, okay? Well, that's the Trump administration. They like rule of law, oh, p- when it suits their purposes, but not when others do it.
Robert Zoellick: If you look at these U.S. record in WTO dispute settlement we won a lotta cases -- right? So, and again at heart the Trump administration is protectionist, Trump said this is inauguration, he said he's a tariff man, that's ought a give you a clue. So he would prefer to raise barriers than to open markets. I would prefer to open markets, and be, force some competition while having adjustment processes.
James Green: Thank you for mentioning the adjustment process that all countries go through. When I interviewed Wendy Cutler in this, process, and I kind of asked her about, soon after China's accession at the WTO about case, bringing cases to the WTO. Her description was 2002, '03 and '04 was that we were working with the Chinese to get barriers down, and make sure that they were implementing according to the, the accession protocol, and that, that was the focus. Is that a fair ...
Robert Zoellick: I would, I would distinguish a little bit, we were, w- we were monitoring it closely. the Chinese were showed serious recognition that this is gonna require big changes. Remember the whole push in this in the '90s is Zhu Rongji wants to use the rules of the WTO to import into the Chinese system and bring more, competition. But to give you an example that I thought summed it up for me, Long Yongtu, who was the vice minister who did much of the negotiation, and gave a speech in the U.S. after accession and he used three examples. He said, "You know, to give you a sense of China's needing to come to terms with these rules ... ", he said, " ... you know, the notion of the WTO trade system is win-win." He said, "Under Chinese culture the wind blows from the east or the west, you're cold or warm, there's you, it's win-lose." So though it's interesting when I see China use the win-win concept now, he was saying in 2001 that was a foreign concept.
Robert Zoellick: Another one is transparency, he said, "There's a Chinese homily about fish that swim in water that's too clear, die.", and, so he, again he was an amusing way of saying we have to learn to adapt to this. And the other one for trade people is called national treatment, which means you have to treat other countries in the same way you treat your own. And Long mentioned that he said this was very popular among Chinese private sector because they said if China had to treat foreign companies like they treat the state owned companies there's a better argument the Chinese private sector should also be treated in the same way. It's amusing but it's an insight about the fact that they were gonna have to adapt.
Robert Zoellick: What we first did was that, you know, we, we didn't in any way, step back from the nature of the obligations, but we would bring them to the attention of the Chinese. You know, all countries, including China, there's often vested interests, we'd persuade them to try to get it fixed, many times they would fix it. And if need be, I remember in one case I think we did file a WTO case, I think they resolved the case before we-
Robert Zoellick: ... we were willing to use that leverage and pressure. So we weren't, trying to give people a particular room, but frankly if you've got people who by and large, have decided they want to apply the rules, and it's in their own interest to apply the rules, but it's new like probably I'm trying to make sense to try to work with them to try to do so. And again, this was the attitude of, of the U.S. business sector that was taking advantage of it. But again, to give you two other little pieces of flavor on this. There were some problems that accumulated even by 2003, and I remember working with Don Evans with the, the joint s- the JCCT, Joint Commercial, whatever it was group. And we identified some things in IPR and other things, and we actually got a package of pretty good results. And we were alert to the fact that the 2004 elections, you wanted to demonstrate that this process was on track, and the Chinese sort of continued to cooperate with us.
Robert Zoellick: Now, one difference that I have with Charlene Barshefsky is that she makes a point that there was a special safeguard provision that was sort of put in, and she argues -- in my view without, any backing for the other than her assertion -- that if we used the special safeguard more this would have dissipated political opposition to China. I, personally I don't. I, I ... It's hard to believe these are small cases, I think the biggest issue was exchange rate misalignment, which isn't really addressed until 2005 and '06, or '07 or afterwards. I remember those cases specifically as they came up because it was a very low ambiguous standard in the International Trade Commission sense the case is on.
Robert Zoellick: The first case was with something called pedestal actuators, which is basically like a barber's chair, or, frankly on the scooters that elderly and disabled people have to sort of move the seat up and down. It turned out to the best of my recollection, there was only one other producer, it was in Taiwan, so it's not going help the United States, and it's just going to increase cost for elderly and disabled people. Well, how was that in the national interest, okay? The second one I remember was wire hangers, okay? So, you know, we're going to increase the cost for Korean dry cleaners all over the country, you know, and, so for what real purpose here?
Robert Zoellick: And the third one, I forget the product, but I remembered that the company had been actually, there was either a similar criminal legal action against it based on sort of worker provisions. I remember this is very handy 'cause when the democrats in the Congress asked about it I said, "Well, would you want to support a company that's violating labor standards?" But there was a logic, and the logic was also that frankly I wanted to push the Chinese to recognize that we weren't going to try to abuse the system where there's ambiguities, but then I also expected when I did bring a matter that I would expect it to get solved.
Robert Zoellick: And to me there is a, there is a contrary test: which is, so the Obama administration decided they would use these provisions, which they did with some steel tires, and what the analysis showed was the job saved from steel tires was about $800 or $900,000 a job and the Chinese retaliated, so you lost something. So this is ... It- It's easy for people to say why don't you protect this group, why don't you protect that group? Look, I, I basically believe that while you, one should try to help people with adjustment, and I used something called a 201 safeguard provision actually for steel to help do this, that in the end of the day if you build high barriers to your own system -- remember 40 to 50% of your imports are intermediate goods or raw materials -- so you're just gonna make yourself sort of less effective.
Robert Zoellick: But I was also trying to shape the Chinese behavior and thinking, and, you know, I would contend if you go look at the, sort of the Chinese performance, at least through my period up to the start of 2005, they were, they were seeking to comply, and, so meeting the tests, and, and U.S. exports were certainly increasing considerably. I do think there's the flaw in the larger system, which we probably don't have time to get into here, was that there are terms under both the WTO, under the old GATT system and under the IMF, where you're not supposed to manipulate currencies. And clearly, again, there's a logic for this.
Robert Zoellick: Remember in the late nineties there's a financial crisis in East Asia, China had pegged to the dollar. At that point Larry Summers and Ruben, they were pleased that they held a peg. The Chinese, were holding to this peg, and it did, give them a exchange rate advantage. that does not now exist by the way, so it shows another example of where the Chinese came to terms, and Chinese current account surplus, which had been about 10% of GDP, quite high is now about zero.
James Green: One of the things that, you worked on as deputy secretary of state was a dialogue with your Chinese counterpart, Dai Bingguo, who I think at the time was the executive vice foreign minister
James Green: ... and party leader, right, more importantly. And you started out really a, a discussion with him about what the globe looks like, and then you have the assistant secretaries of state kind of meet their Chinese counterparts to also talk about what was happening around the world to try to match up does China see the world the same way the U.S. does, or can our vision of the world kind of overlap, and where does it overlap and not overlap. I wanted to ask about one parts of the senior dialogue, and one trip in particular in which you took Dai Bingguo to Hyde Park, in New York I think-
Robert Zoellick: So again, let's set a little context here. I had been a U.S. trade representative, so I was a cabinet member, and Condi Rice goes over to become secretary of state, and she asked me to become her deputy. Normally in the U.S. system you don't move from being a cabinet member to be in a deputy, and it's more fun to run your own system.
Robert Zoellick: And I had because of relationships with Bush, and Condi and the vice president, I had a fair amount of autonomy as U.S. trade representative. but, but to be frank, you know, you, when you're in those positions people ask you to do something you have to seriously consider it. And, and, Condi was always very gracious, she said, l- and President Bush and Vice President Cheney said, "Look, there's a big world out there. I had known the State Department from my experience with Baker, you guys can kind of share the load." Well, in reality there's one secretary of state, so that ... But one of the areas that I was given some responsibility for was this dialogue with China.
Robert Zoellick: I had been thinking about this anyway because again, to try to give you some perspective while it's part of our story is the details of, you know, trade matters and others, it helps to try to see trends and anticipate, and if you have a strategic mindset where you're trying to shape things. And, so, recall the whole strategy across a number of presidents, some seven presidents over 30 years had been to integrate China in the system.
Robert Zoellick: Well, by this point you have China in the WTO, it's UN Security Council, it's in IMF, it's in World Bank, it's agreed with, you know, number of the nonproliferation items, ozone depletion. So the question is, moving beyond, forums what are the norms of Chinese behavior? So this, this is going to lead to the responsible stakeholder, but I wanted to have a discussion with, senior level people in China about these issues, both economic and political.
Robert Zoellick: So one other point that's sort of lost to history was that the undersecretary for economics, in the State Department had a dialogue with the NDRC planning group. And, so I had this idea well, let's try to combine the economics with the foreign and security policy through this strategic or senior dialogue. It was quite interesting, because when I went to China, I wanted to combine those, but the Chinese system had a hard time combining those. It's kind of amusing in the light of people thinking China has a very sophisticated international economic diplomacy. Well, they couldn't even get the two ministries to meet-
Robert Zoellick: I knew that Dai Bingguo was a character of some importance because he was, well, he wasn't the minister, he was the party leader in the process, which is demonstrated because he goes onto become a state counselor. So, I wa- Ooh, and, and the reason this is important is people use the term strategic dialogue somewhat loosely for different purposes.
Robert Zoellick: Now, when I l- Just to jump ahead when I left, you know, Hank Paulson who's a friend of mine sort of--he used the strategic economic dialogue in part to sort of have suzerainty over the sort of American economic, sort of, eh, agency, so he had these very big meetings, and then he had smaller meetings on the side. Mine was a different model. Mine was ... I mean I don't mean to presume it's the same as Kissinger's, but it was a very small group, so we had, you know, three or four people on a side. And I had frankly freedom to proceed as I wanted, and, and I was trying to stretch their thinking about not just the issues of the day, but kind of, what are the issues to be anticipating systemically.
Robert Zoellick: So let me give you two examples that I haven't talked about, So one I remember talking with Dai to say, "Look, let's just assume someday that the Korean Peninsula is unified. I'm not saying that we're provoking it, but let's assume it's unified." I said, "Your first instinct in China would probably be to say you don't want an alliance of united Korea with the United States because it means U.S. forces on the Yalu and we saw where that happened in 1951." and, but instead I said, "You know, in reality ... ", I said, " ... I think the United States would probably keep just some modest air and naval assets in the south. And consider the implications if the U.S. didn't have an alliance with Korea.", I said, "All of sudden, you know, Korea would again be the small country among China or Russia, Japan. Maybe it would inherit a nuclear weapon from the north, maybe it would keep it for its own security."
Robert Zoellick: "If South Kor- If Korea keeps a nuclear weapon, Russia's got one, China's got one ... ", I said, " ... do you think that's going to affect Japanese behavior?" And I said, "And what do you think will be the long-term effect of the ability to have a U.S. alliance with Japan if we don't have an alliance with Korea?" and the Chinese, and Dai of course for family reasons was quite, negative about Japan, and they are ambivalent because on the, sort of the idea of the cork and the bottle, the idea of the United States alliance, you know, keeps Japan from being militaristic and threatening, on the other hand they're worried about the United States' security relationship with Japan. And, this is the type of discussion where you're trying to press, you know? And frankly if you're a U.S. official, and you've been dealing with global issues, which I had been fortunate enough to deal with, you know, back with Baker and different peace, you, you tend to think in these bigger terms, or at least some people do, and, so I was trying to engage my Chinese counterparts in that.
Robert Zoellick: Another example was Iran. So in Iran, you know, I ... This is we were trying to put focus on, the Iranian nuclear program at the time, and I would emphasize all the way up to my meetings with the prime minister about kind of the importance of this s- the supporting us on sanctions. And I remember one Chinese official as I get in the car he said, "Look ... ", he said, " ... we get the message. We'll try to help in Iran ... " He said, " ... but you have to understand three things. One, we've had a long relationship, so we have to figure out to deal with that, you know? Second, we can't do exactly what you do, and third the Iranians are a little crazy, we don't know what they'll do." Okay, but that's a sort of m- at least where you may not always agree, you want to understand what the other person's thinking about.
Robert Zoellick: I used this dialogue to emphasize, you know, the importance of security in Afghanistan would be important for China as much as it would be for us, and I got them to contribute to I think a conference in London, and put in some money and support. Another one at the same time I'm working on the genocide in Darfur, and I pushed, the Chinese because they were involved with the oil, and, so they had a narrow interest. And I tried to explain not only how this could help us, but it could help their own image globally by, you know, if you're dealing with a regime that's, accused of genocide. And Tom Christensen who became the deputy assistant secretary then covers this in his book about how he deals with that.
Robert Zoellick: Tom is an example of I had reached out to broader communities to try to consult with experts, and, but I also had in mind of always building America's capacity not only within the Foreign Service and the State Department, but on the outside of people that had some experience. So I, you know, was the person that identified Tom and say, "You know, can we bring you in as a deputy assistant secretary in China?", and I think it shows in his writing and his work, so you're, you're trying to build a little bit of capital over time.
Robert Zoellick: So the point with the, the, the dialogue was not to necessarily deal with a long list of problems. And if you go back and you look at when Kissinger in his book Diplomacy describes opening with China he says, "Look, eh, you were trying to get the relationship right, which will help us deal with the problems, you don't start with the long laundry list of problems." And also as friends in Chinese academic community and policy community if you want to point it out to me something I generally knew already, but they affirmed the Chinese like to think in terms of principles before they get down to the nitty-gritty.
Robert Zoellick: Americans sometimes are impatient with that because they think oh, you're just trying to avoid discussion of the things, the problems we have to solve. You, you need a combination of both, and I'm big on results, but I want people to understand the strategic context. I like histories, we put this in historical context, yeah, for, to help the, at least I think it helps understand how other people view their history in these issues. And here of course America has a, sort of a complex record with China. We weren't the colonial power in China, in some ways, you know, we, we take the indemnity from the Boxer Rebellion and use it to help Tsinghua University and scholarships. Because we had a missionary tradition with China, and we're trying, trying to convert the Chinese whether to become commercial people, democrats and republicans, or, or, Christians, there's a, a pendulum of relations that swings back and forth.
Robert Zoellick: Which by the way, you know, if you think about the world today we're about ready to have the pendulum swing back again-
Robert Zoellick: So I argue that we need to have m- more consistency without yielding our principles. As part of this I'm trying to build a relationship with Dai, and, so I, either I or my team had the idea about bringing him up to, Hyde Park to see the Franklin Roosevelt Library. And of course Franklin Roosevelt, in his concept of, of sort of a post-world war world after World War II is kind of, has a special place for the China. It happened to be the Republic of China and not the People's Republic, but, and his family had a long ties with, merchants probably bringing opium to China.
Robert Zoellick: We actually went ta the library, and you could see kind of some of the initial draft that Churchill had with Roosevelt talking about, you know, the creation of the UN Security Council, and China being there.
James Green: Right-
Robert Zoellick: By the way Churchill by, takes all the commonwealth countries and others, and puts them underneath Great Britain.
James Green: The U.K.
Robert Zoellick: Yeah-
Robert Zoellick: ... there. you had ... I didn't plan this, but it worked out well. You had the editing of, of FDR's speech after Pearl Harbor with the day of infamy, words that he edited and put in-
James Green: Wow.Robert Zoellick: ... Chinese liked that. And, so, you know, you're, you're trying to g- give a sense that your dialogues are fitting into a larger stream of history and events-
Robert Zoellick: ... and, you know, it's, it's part of diplomacy is, is, showing people respect, paying attention to them, giving them a, a treatment, while also trying to encourage them to take a certain direction. And, so these, from what I learned, Dai found it to be a, a, a positive gesture. I think it snowed a little bit, and somebody h- has, the embassy had to buy him snowshoes.
James Green: You had mentioned, kind of earlier the idea of, the speech that you had mentioned of, of having China be a responsible stakeholder in the ki- international system. You as you know set off a, a firestorm within Chinese policy circles, first in translating the term, and then in kind of what it meant for China.
Robert Zoellick: It's connected. The reason it's connected to the dialogue in that, the.. In addition to trying to, engage the Chinese these ways I'm reaching out to Chinese experts in the State Department, or Policy Planning Staff, Evan Feigenbaum was there. Jeff Bader was out of government at this point, but I reached out to him, and I actually had sort of two extensive seminars, one on economic issues, one on political security issues, and I was trying to think through my own approach about what our goals and strategies should be for China. And, so, this is sort of interesting for people, and sometimes they think these all get bogged down in inter-agency processes, it depends on the people and the time.
Robert Zoellick: So, at this point in the second Bush administration my relations with the Defense Department, the White House, and those are pretty good. You know, not only had I known the people and worked with the campaign, but, you know, I was really kind of the number two to Baker in the recount, and, you know, so it sort of shows while people might think well, you're more technocratic, I got ties on the political side, and, so therefore, you get more running more. You wanna use processes a little different than just having endless papers being circulated for inter-agency discussion, so I fortunately had the freedom to do that.
Robert Zoellick: I included Mike Green who's the NSC person who I have great respect for, he's written an excellent book about U.S. relations with East Asia. I then also in, in this process I had a meeting with Zheng Bijian-
Robert Zoellick: ... who was a, sort of a whisperer to the Chinese leaders going back to Deng Xiaoping, and certainly Hu Jintao as I understood it. And he had written an article in Foreign Affairs that got a lot of tension called, China's Peaceful Rise, the Chinese later edited this because it sounded too threatening, so they had China's Peaceful Development. but, so I thought ... I'm trying to shape the public debate as well as frame our own thinking, so I, I took our, our dialogue, and I took these outside groups, and I met with Evan Feigenbaum who was on the Policy and Planning Staff and others, and we crafted this idea of a speech about responsible stakeholders. And, so I had this opportunity to speak, I think it was late in the year, in 2005, the U.S. Committee on National, U.S., National China Community Relations, I forget the exact.
Robert Zoellick: And, and, so, and the, the important point was that I, I was trying to respond to Zheng Bijian. And I was making the point that while everybody welcomes China's peaceful rise nobody would bet their future on it. And I was then trying to make this point that we needed to go beyond integration to Chinese responsibility for the international system, which the United States had helped create and led, but which really it served China quite well. And I was trying to explain why it was in China's interest to be supportive of the system, and also that if China didn't bear responsibilities the U.S. would lose domestic political support for the system. and, so it was, it was a message that on the one hand paid respect to China for what it accomplished, but it's also pushing China to do more.
Robert Zoellick: In the aftermat, I still find it sort of curious that some people think this offered some concession to China because, you know, it ... The first point is do you believe that China has influence in the world? Well, yes, okay, in different forms. Then wouldn't it make sense for China to take responsibilities to help the U.S.-led system, how can you be against that? And moreover this didn't escape the Chinese, I'm paying them a compliment, but I'm -- I didn't say this explicitly, but I'm explicitly saying -- and the U.S. will be the umpire to decide whether you met the standard, but in a, in a cooperative way, and, and recognizing. And this is an important part that China will also have a voice, and Chinese suggestions will also have to be taken into account.
Robert Zoellick: That's ... A good example was that, eh, we're gonna come, would come to this later, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. in my set of 30 years of public service in and out of government everybody wanted the United States to do things and pay for it, frankly if the Chinese wanted to pay for infrastructure following U.S. rules and guidance in governments how can you be against that? And again, they hired a bunch of my former colleagues at the World Bank to try to meet the appropriate standards. So there's ... This is this challenge we have now where people are just trying to get into the idea that cooperation with China failed. And whatever you think about what we should do in the future that is very inaccurate mistake and assumption.
Robert Zoellick: And, and, again, I've dealt with a range of views on diplomacy, but fooling yourself is not a good way to start your diplomacy. And if you look at, at proliferation issues, if you look at the economic issues, trade issues, environmental issues, there's a long list of things where we've been able to cooperate successfully. And again, maybe this my experience with Baker, in my own experience is that I'm there to get things done for my country, and, and I'm trying to do it in a way if others can benefit, and we can do it in a way that's a win-win, I don't see what the problem is with that.
Robert Zoellick: Now, I'm not ignorant of the things that China does that, whether it's security systems, or, you know, in Xinjiang Providence, or in other areas that sort of violate U.S. norms, but my view is again, U.S. should be free, as Ronald Reagan said, to stand for those, make the position on those, but still seek to cooperate. I mean particularly, you know, I've worked with so many countries around the world, people are going to have different cultures, different perspectives, so and so forth, and frankly one of the oddities about the U.S. administration now is that we're in constant confrontation with China, but we don't stand for our own ideals.
Robert Zoellick: And another key point going forward, and this is one that Evan Feigenbaum has made.
Robert Zoellick: If ... Once China's integrated in the system are you really shocked that they're going try to nudge it towards their preferences and norms? The shocking thing is that we're abandoning the system that we created, okay, so you can't beat with something with nothing, and we should have to be in there competing with our own ideas. Building partnerships, that used to be the strength of America, that's how we won the Cold War. But then s- the other point that Evan made is a good one, which is that, China kind of has a two track approach on this. It'll work within the system, but if those systems get bogged down it'll develop an option, and that option in some ways is captured by Belt and Road, which is a more traditional bilateral Chinese tributary state model. You work with us we'll take care of you, you threaten us or you get, you don't do what we want well, you'll be penalized.
Robert Zoellick: Now, I think there are ways you can improve Belt and Road as I've written elsewhere using the types of standards for the AIIB and others, but the whole concept, going back to the responsible stakeholder, was to try to recognize that whatever the problem is of the future, climate change, proliferation, the world hunger, global financial crisis, you're really not going to be able to do it without China at the table. And, and again, I mean when, without going through every piece of this, you know, now I'm at the World Bank in the global financial crisis. Well, the Chinese had the, the, the biggest and sort of quickest, sort of, ah, repor- program to have stimulus, And they certainly resisted any actions as the Russians and others proposed that would have made life harder.
Robert Zoellick: So I don't see how it serves U.S. interest to just raise tariffs, have, sort of conflicts, but then don't get anything out of it. I mean I'm not against pushing harder conflicts, I've been part of actual wars, but on the other hand, you know, pick your shots.
James Green: ... your experience with the World Bank?
Robert Zoellick: So when I become president of the World Bank in 2007. I came in at a time of crisis, my successor had been pushed out, the civil service staff was in a revolutionary mood, which is unusual for civil service staffs. Every three years the World Bank has to create a funding mechanism that raised literally tens of billions of dollars for IDA, it's International Development Association, for the poorest countries to give grants and others, that was stuck in the w- done in the water.
Robert Zoellick: The Chinese announced when I joined that they would contribute to IDA, okay, it's a small amount, but it was symbolic to sort of, you know, laying out of hands-
Robert Zoellick: ... instead of saying we're supporting this guy. But then as another point, China had been a beneficiary of IDA, and, so they had these very long-term almost low or no interest rate credits. And, so, when I later had to have another, sort of round for IDA I went to them and said, "Look, can we get you to repay these 'cause the economic cost will not be high, but I can really get billions back for, for the Africans." And it's interesting, this shows the Chinese ... Eh, and I said, "You know, you ... This'll ... People will like this, you'll look good, right?", but the Chinese didn't want to be singled out. They ... I needed to get a couple other countries to do this-
Robert Zoellick: ... Chinese amounts dwarf there's.. gives you a little sense of even though, you know, you would think it as a positive for China-... they wanted to be careful about it instead-... of how it was seen, yeah.
Robert Zoellick: But the larger point was, I had a very good experience working with China. Chinese had appointed very good people in their office, they either came from the Ministry of Finance or the PBoC, which is very good. This was the era of, of Governor Zhou Xiaochuan at the PBoC, and I'd had contacts in and out of government with some of the people in the PBoC world, very professional, very high quality. And shortly after I take office we were starting to move in the global financial crisis. So it's sort of all hands on deck dealing in, in the developing country world, you know, there was a food cris- crisis at the same time. And one of the stories as you hear about all this concern about the euro, or Greece, or the, Central Banks, the developing world actually managed to handle this relatively well, and that wasn't a total accident.
Robert Zoellick: I mean ... And again, to show the connection my friend from Europe, Pascal Lamy, who had been European Trade Commissioner goes on and becomes head of the WTO, and it shows were people make a difference. We could see that the central bank policies were going basically choke off trade finance 'cause for, without getting into the details, and we both had the standing and knowledge to say, you know, it's bad enough that we're going have a big recession, it's even worse if we squeeze all the poorest countries, so we could push back against the central banker's rules on those types of things.
Robert Zoellick: But we had a lot of innovations, from open data systems to thing, special efforts on climate change, they're trying to deal with post-conflict states. And I found the Chinese to be very open and cooperative. I mean even, eh, you, you, you, you have your own capital that you raise, and, but, and you have these special funds like IDA, countries will also contribute trust funds to support. And we had one that, from some of the Nordics, that wanted to focus on democracy, and with the Chinese if I can make it rule of law and good governance as opposed to democracy they would -- and, and it was up to countries to decide -- they could work with them. So I found that at least with that community of Chinese policy making if you kind of open the door and build trusting relationships you could get a lot done.
Robert Zoellick: Now, for the ... with the other part of it however is, ... Part of diplomacy and the World Bank job in its best is also diplomacy, it's also, you know, some of the symbolism. So in one of my early visits I went to the hometown of Deng Xiaoping in Sichuan Province, and bringing a photo for the museum of the Robert McNamara who had been the president of the World Bank in 1980, and when China is joining, and Deng Xiaoping, so I'm paying homage to our combined sort of lineage. So the Chinese I think had some sense of my knowledge of history too, so in Chongqing and I wanted to see, sort of either Stillwell or Shenalt's sort of efforts of this.
Robert Zoellick: they took me up to, Shenyang where the ment- some of the mentoring incident took place, the, or the Marco Polo Bridge, and I remember going to a museum there about World War II. And you see, eh, kind of the Chinese Communist version, which is, you know, Chang Kai-shek is the guy who's messing everything up, China wins the war against Japan. There's one little photo about Pearl Harbor kind of, and I pointed out maybe a few things happened between '41 and '45, but in all in good spirit. They're people, and, and this is kind of you, you push people on some of these items, but with the, with the right attitude.
Robert Zoellick: With the good relations that I developed in some ways, eh, you, this is to understand the Chinese system. The reformers liked to use outsiders to keep pushing the system, this was the Zhu Rongji strategy in the '90s. So on one of my visits to China as we were approaching the 30th anniversary, the vice minister of finance says, "Look Bob, everybody thinks that Chinese, you know, really like to celebrate anniversaries and we do, but let's try to do something significant for the 30th anniversary." And, so they ... and this is quite intriguing, and he says, "We would like you to propose to our leaders a special multilateral study about where China needs to go in structure reform.", so they're using me to propose to the, the leadership.
Robert Zoellick: And again, one thing I don't wanna forget is I, I'm also trying to signal my openness to their thinking. I appointed the first non-developed country person as chief economist to the World Bank, and it's Justin Lin who is Chinese-
Robert Zoellick: Now, Justin's m- view of s- structural, new structural economics is a little different than mine, but I'm trying to create an environment where there's different views. Justin had got his PhD at the University of Chicago, he's a hero in China 'cause he'd been from Taiwan, and he goes to China, swims right across.
Robert Zoellick: And, and, so, they want me to pro- put this idea, this was in the late, when about Hu Jintao era, and, so I propose it and they agree, and we work with, the DRC, the, which is the development group of the State Council.
Robert Zoellick: One of the co-chairs was a man named Liu He, who goes onto become vice premier, so it helped connect me to the reform community. But also we bring in international experts from all over. When many people see the World Bank, to be honest they mistake it because it's called bank, and, so they think it's main job is spitting out money. In reality its main job is knowledge transfer and experience, and the Chinese learned how to use the World Bank very effectively, and that they would have projects which they would use as pilots, and analyze them thoroughly and then spread them all around.
Robert Zoellick: And again, in a world of climate change I remember some of this was forestation, other projects that have mutual benefits, but as I would go visit some of these projects people would, I remember would say, "You know, look, this project was great, but what we really learned was about the accounting, and, you know, to be able to make sure-"
James Green: How to manage-
Robert Zoellick: "manage it effectively. " And so on and so forth." so I ... At the time I remember saying to the Chinese, "Look, you know, given Chinese income levels it would be better if we could move to maybe knowledge transfer from contract." Its they liked the loans because it created their own discipline to it, and, and frankly given the payments and others it was a way of paying us for the services. I think going forward with China it will probably be -- and the World Bank does this for some others where you -- ki- you probably do them as kind of contracts for knowledge transfer in different ways.
Robert Zoellick: But that, that China 2030 Report, really surveyed the structural challenges of China. So if you put this back in the context in which I've described, so in, you know, in 1980 I'm seeing the poorest part of China, in '89 or '91 I'm back there sort of seeing the early set of reports of reform, I'm working on this on the trade issues, and seeing how that relates to the structure reform. China's becoming more sophisticated, but I honestly thought I could help from the World Bank's perch to keep China, a constructive player in the international system, but also contributing to others, and dealing with some of the challenges whether exchange rates or other processes, and frankly, you know, where the win-win possibilities are there, you know? So the importance of the Chinese private sector, transparency, intellectual property rights as they move up the value added chain.
Robert Zoellick: It's not that one is Pollyannaish about this, you can push on these items. And, and one ... But there's other little aspects whether from a multilateral or from a U.S. perspective that are interesting. So whenever I was in China, I would go not only to my meetings in Beijing, but I'd go out to another province, and I wanted to see poor people in China, and you mentioned kind of the running. It was sort of a, I think a source of amusement because wherever I'd be I'd go out for sort of a morning run, and, and in some of these poor towns they had not seen anybody like this for a while. And, and, so, but it was good, and at least normally I was in reasonable shape, so I'd show when American's were fit at least.
Robert Zoellick: But the other part of it was, it allowed me when I came back, sometimes I did these visits before I went to Beijing to say to the leaders I've been-
Robert Zoellick: ... here, here. I went to Sichuan a couple times because we helped with earthquakes-
Robert Zoellick: ... in all countries, but particularly I think in China, it matters if you're a foreigner, and you're not just there for, with your commercial interest or your policy agenda, but you're trying to understand their country, and you're trying to help when they need help, you know? And, so, for all these reasons, you know, you know, Chinese have these friend, this phrase old friend, okay, m- but, you know, it's used for different purposes, but nevertheless I think there's some sincerity about people that they feel they've got trusting relationship with. Ironically that can allow you in some ways to be more demanding when you need to be demanding, because when I deliver tough messages or other things they understand I'm not doing it for some ill will, that there's a reason behind, and I try to explain the reason.
Robert Zoellick: I'm, I'm writing a book at present that's gonna come out next year, and I, so I have chapters on different parts of U.S. diplomatic history, and one of them is the opening to China under Nixon and Kissinger, and you, you do see ... It's quite interesting, I see echoes of what Kissinger talks about, with instead of, Premier Zhou Enlai
Robert Zoellick: ... about saying, "Look, le- m- eh, eh ... When they're doing the Shanghai Communique, let's not, we're not ... Don't, don't try to trade items with me, if you convince me of the logic of it I will accept your point." And Kissinger notes how different this was with the Russians trying to bludgeon you. And I, I again, in-
Robert Zoellick: ... my experience acknowledging much of it has been on the economic side, but frankly also on some of the security issues. I found that, you know, and it doesn't mean that you always agree, and, and to be honest you have to understand they have political constraints just like we have political constraints, and that doesn't mean you concede to them, but you need to understand that sort of aspect. Point being when I also was in China at the World Bank I would try to always have a press conference, in, in Beijing organized by the World Bank. And they were very crowded events because frankly there's lots of Chinese journalists, most of whom probably aren't allowed to ask much of anything of-
Robert Zoellick: ... Chinese officials, and I'm being very forthright. And the most, one of the most striking examples of this, but this is another aspect of diplomacy, when the China 2030 Report came out I had this press conference, and, some guy stands up and starts disrupting the conference. Well, you can imagine the Chinese journalists are thinking oh, you know, what's this guy doing here, and, and of course the security people want to hustle him out, and I say, "No, no, no, let him say his peace.", and it was almost like he was shocked you know, I actually had to speak, I was set up. I knew he was set up to do this by somebody, and he's defending state owned enterprises-
Robert Zoellick: And, so I say let him speak, and then I explained why I have a different view on these topics. Now, I'm partly doing this because I want the young Chinese, and journalists and other to realize there's a different system. And that you can treat people with respect and come with reasoned arguments and account of them, and I'm not afraid to hear another points of view on things like that.
Robert Zoellick: So, all these are part of what I'll call sort of the larger dimension of, of diplomacy with a country.
James Green: Ambassador Zoellick, I've taken a lot of your time, really appreciate delving through your last three-plus decades dealing with China policy and traveling there. look forward to your book when it comes out, and I appreciate your time today.
Robert Zoellick: Glad to have a chance to talk to you.
James Green: Ambassador Robert Zoellick - speaking with me from Washington, DC. You’ve been listening to the U.S.-China Dialogue Podcast from Georgetown University. I’m your host, James Green.