US President George W. Bush was not worried that his praise of Taiwan as an example of a country that was under a repressive government and then liberalized would irritate China, a senior White House official said on Tuesday.
Mike Green, senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council, made the remarks in reply to a media question during a briefing in Kyoto before Bush mentioned Taiwan in a speech.
"The president ... is going to talk about his freedom agenda in a universal sense -- that countries that are successful economically, in order to continue being successful, are going to have to give their people opportunities to worship freely, to own property freely, to express themselves freely," Green said.
These are "elements of a strong and stable society," and there are examples across Asia where countries have found that they're stronger when they've done that, he said.
In his speech, Bush cited South Korea and Taiwan, "because Taiwan is an important example that this kind of pattern knows no cultural or historic line," Green said.
He said the point is not to lecture China or any other country in the region about what kind of system they should have exactly, but rather to make the point that Asia has had a pretty good run -- there has been peace and stability, as well as economic prosperity -- and that if countries want to keep being successful, these other elements are going to have to be brought into the political process.
Green acknowledged that the Chinese are sensitive but that Bush was not worried about antagonizing them with these words, which he said will be repeated when the president is in Beijing, because "we approach this from the premise that US-China relations are good and that we're committed to making them better, and that President Hu [Jintao] (
"So it's in that context and done in a way to explain what else will help China succeed," Green said.
Beijing, however, yesterday deflected Bush's call to embrace democracy and religious freedom.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (
"Chinese people enjoy all forms of democracy and freedom under law, including freedom of religion and belief," Liu said.
"We hope to increase consensus and mutual confidence through President Bush's visit," he said.
China was willing to discuss its human rights "on the basis of equality, mutual respect, and non-interference in internal affairs," Liu said.
But Liu said China need not take Taiwan as its model.
"Taiwan has its circumstances, and the mainland has its circumstances," he said.
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