On March 7, 2013, People’s Daily Online reporter Wen Xian makes an interview with former United States National Security Advisor Brzezinski. The following is the transcript.
Wen: Dear Dr. Brzezinski, it’s a great honor for us to have this interview with you.
Brzezinski:? Well, I’m delighted. I like to talk to China.
Wen: Actually, you are a very old friend of China and have made great contributions for U.S.-China relationship for the last more than 30 years. And I personally met you both in Beijing and D.C. for some times.
Brzezinski: That’s right.
Wen: And thank you very much for all this. Well, as you know that after the CPC's 18th congress, the first “two sessions", namely, the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) are going on. What do you see are the significance of this event? Can you tell us your personal impression of China’s new leadership?
Brzezinski: I’ve met of course the soon-to-be-elected President Xi, and I have had the opportunity to have some lengthy discussions with him. He strikes me as thoughtful, insightful, clear-headed, confident, not boastful, and with good antennae for the international situation and for domestic developments in China. I think he has a genuine opportunity to address, effectively I hope, some of the more serious structural and social dilemmas that China is beginning to confront because of its success. And I want to repeat that. The dilemmas that China confronts are not the consequences of failure; they are the consequences of success. But sometimes the consequences of success can be very difficult and dangerous.
Wen: And what do you think are the significance of the “two sessions” now going on?
Brzezinski: I think the significance is that the Chinese leadership I assume is thoughtfully and comprehensively discussing both domestic and international issues. Not all of these sessions are open, and not all of what they say is being reported. But I have to assume that the amount of time that is being given indicates that this is a very comprehensive review.
Wen: In his government work report, Premier Wen JiaBao said that China should continue to hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit; unswervingly pursue peaceful development; adhere to our independent foreign policy of peace; and promote durable peace and common prosperity in the world. In your opinion, in this changeable world, what kinds of contribution could China make for the world?
Brzezinski: First of all, the very noble expectations of the retiring prime minister are laudable. It is the right thing for him to say. The question is how active China will be in dealing with the wide-ranging, and in some respects escalating, global problems. As some of my Chinese friends may know from reading my recent book, Strategic Vision, I believe that we are no longer threatened by hegemonic wars, wars designed to achieve global supremacy, of the sort which took place over the course of the last two hundred years. Notably, because of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and particularly the Cold War, we today cannot even contemplate seriously any national policy designed to achieve global hegemony. We in America are proud of our system, and we hope others will emulate, in particular, some of our domestic democracy, but we are aware that we cannot impose the American system on the world in the way that Soviet leaders used to talk about the world essentially adopting the communist revolution. The Soviet leaders even said specifically to us “we will bury you”. I know that China, for example, is very proud of its achievements, but I do not see in Chinese statements or official policies any indication that China expects, or wants, the whole world to emulate the Chinese system. I think the Chinese understand that the Chinese system is the product of a six-thousand year long history. And of course that includes the last seventy years of communist history, but that history is part of a much longer history, and it is the total history and the total culture and historical experience of the Chinese people that guides Chinese conduct. Therefore, the Chinese leaders, correctly and reasonably, are not propagating the idea that countries all over the world should try to emulate China or follow the Chinese lead. That, I think, is realistic and sound and positive, and in that context a closer collaboration between America and China is feasible and desirable.
Wen: What’s your comment on the achievements of the Chinese government and people since the reform in 1978 ? And what progress do you think China has gained?
Brzezinski: Well, all I can say is based on what I have seen with my own eyes. When I first went to China in 1978, it was visually a totally different country. After I left the government, my family and I were invited by Deng Xiaoping to visit China and we chose to try to re-trace some of the “long march” on the Himalayan plateau in the west of Chengdu—the DaDu River and all of that. And it was quite obvious, going into the villages, that so much of China was still living in the late agricultural age with enormous hardships. But it was also evident that even in the countryside you could begin to see the stirrings of initiatives and more freedom for the farmers to decide what to do and what to sell. Since then every time I go to China I am just stunned by the rapidity of the change and the monumental character of their achievements. You are creating at least for, I would say, probably between one fourth and one third of your population, an ultra-modern society as advanced as anything in the world. In some cases more advanced than what there is in the rest of the world, because your cities are brand new and some of them wonderfully designed and impressive in their appearance, in their vitality, and in their good taste.
Wen: Well, you know China harbors a strong will to be a responsible nation as it participates more actively in cooperation with other countries to deal with all kinds of global challenges and redefines the world’s economic and political order and ultimately promotes peace of mankind. How do you evaluate China's will as a responsible big country in the world? And according to you, what more China should do as a responsible big country?
Brzezinski: I don’t want to give lessons to the Chinese people. The Chinese people have their own experience, and they are led by intelligent leaders who know what is feasible and what is not. I would merely say that as a general proposition a world which is increasingly turbulent and dominated by political, religious, and ethnic turmoil is a world that is not going to be congenial to China’s national interests. So I think that it is important for China to be as engaged as America is in trying to deal with some of the global problems. And I am encouraged that China and America are participants in the talks with Iran, I am encouraged that China is involved in trying to cope with the Syrian problem, but I wish that we were closer together on that issue.
Wen: Now there is a Korea problem.
Brzezinski: And now there is the Korea problem where we are responding together. And I think that is ultimately good. The notion that China can develop successfully but in isolation from global problems is no longer feasible. China can develop successfully by joining others in coping with global problems. And that particularly means China and America cooperating, because we are the number one and number two economic powers in the world. Military power is more difficult to measure, but I certainly do not think that military power is measured only by atomic bombs, so one way or another China is one of the leading military powers even if the United States is clearly the leading military power. We have a lot of joint capacity for collaboration, not only in the Middle East, not only in the Far East, but perhaps in Africa, perhaps regarding central Asia, and I think it’s important that we do collaborate because that will be of benefit to the world at large and it will consolidate and deepen the American and Chinese relationship.
Wen: Well, you know, we Chinese people have been always talking about opportunities and risks. Obviously, after more than 30 years rapidly development, China is facing serious challenges. In your mind, what are the opportunities and risks for China now? What is the most serious challenge for China now?
Brzezinski: You mean domestically?
Wen: Both domestically and internationally.?
Brzezinski: Well we can deal with international later.