SCMP Saturday, November 10, 2001

Bush Snr hails China's stand on terror fight


Visiting former US president George Bush yesterday praised China's courage in supporting Washington's anti-terrorism coalition and hoped Beijing's imminent entry into the WTO would strengthen a "burgeoning economic relationship".
"I am very pleased that the United States and China and so many other countries are shoulder to shoulder in unity in the determination to win against international terror," Mr Bush told the World Productivity Congress at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.
"I think the relationship [between China and the US] is better because China was willing to take what I think for them was a rather courageous stand," he said.
The US has sought international backing for its campaign against terrorism since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The Sino-US relationship would also be boosted by the stronger economic ties that arose from China's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Mr Bush said. "It will offer a common basis for this burgeoning economic relationship to grow as we adhere to shared standards in trade and commerce.
"China is vastly important to America and far too important to us to get [the relationship] wrong." The nations would also encounter difficulties, but it was important for the two countries to remain in contact. "The bilateral relationship between China and the United States is as broad and deep as it is complex," he said.
The father of US President George W. Bush urged Western countries to have patience and persistence in dealings with China and to keep communications open during difficult periods. He recalled how he had "quietly contacted" his "friend", former leader Deng Xiaoping following the 1989 PLA crackdown on student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.
"I said, 'this is causing us enormous problems in the United States. I know it is causing you problems but I want to assure you we want to keep this relationship going forward'."
Today's prospects for world peace remained strong, according to Mr Bush, despite the terrorist attacks and the retaliatory bombing of Afghanistan. "Despite the events of September 11, I remain optimistic about our future. I still believe that we have a new world order of peace and prosperity within our grasp."
The optimism was founded on a comparison with the Cold War, where the threat of nuclear war was greater, according to Mr Bush, even with current concerns that weapons of mass destruction could be acquired by terrorists.
"The prospect of peace and prosperity has never been higher in many respects with the Cold War over, the threat of nuclear annihilation greatly reduced and the ideological barriers that divided the world mostly consigned to history," he said.
However, he did say he was "deeply troubled by what Iraq might do in the future". Mr Bush was US president during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the ensuing Gulf War.
The economic fallout in the US from the September 11 attacks would be limited because of "billions of dollars" of extra government spending, Mr Bush said.
The impact was also diminishing as people began reverting to their former lifestyles, with confidence returning among business people to travel by air.
The economic effects of the attacks would be less than during the Gulf war, Mr Bush said. "We were dealing with an economy that I think was sicker than the US economy is today," he said.