Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski interview with Renmin Ribao
March 20, 2013
Dr. Brzezinski was interviewed by Wen Xian and Li Boya of the Chinese paper Renmin Ribao on March 7, 2013. When the final version of the interview was printed in the March 19 edition of the Global Times, the Global Time’s editors omitted important sections dealing with foreign policy. Some of the omissions are printed below.
Some of the Cuts from the Interview Transcript
In response to Renmin Ribao’s question whether Dr. Brzezinski has any advice for China as it grows and gains more international influence:
Dr. 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.
In response to the question of what Dr. Brzezinski’s perception is of the current US-China relationship:
Dr. Brzezinski: On the American side, we have a population that is not actively debating foreign policy, but we have a population that can express itself very freely on every subject. We have a press that is totally free…….
On the Chinese side, you have a press which never criticizes the government. There are no newspaper articles about corrupt senior officials until the government criticizes those officials. There are no critical statements about the Chinese leaders. So what your press says about us is more official. And it is much more nationalistic. As a result, what worries me these days is what I see in the Chinese press. Let me read you some passages just to give you a sense of what I have in mind. This is from an article in Liao Wang from August of last year. It says that the strategic objective of the United States “is to ensure its leading status in the entire Asia pacific region, build a trans-pacific order centered on the United States, and continue its Pacific dominance. And the key link in achieving this objective is to dismantle the East Asian regional corporation framework which has already taken shape….The key link here is to sow discord in the good neighborly, friendly, and cooperative relations between China and countries on its periphery.” In other words the US is accused of deliberately promoting—deliberately promoting—discord between China and its neighbors. This is from Liao Wang. And it goes on to give even more examples of this, and in a sense, it portrays the US as in effect hostile to China.
Here is something from your own newspaper, Ren Min Ri Bao, from January 30th. The United States “is boosting old military alliances, damaging the political foundation of East Asian peace, sharpening the territorial sovereignty contradictions between China and the countries around it, building a united front aimed at China, forcibly pushing the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, and disrupting the self-determined cooperation and regional integration process between the East Asian countries.” And then it goes on to say that “in order for China to achieve strategic balance in the Asia Pacific region, it must greatly increase its military presence” and so forth, and “[China] should give full play to the strategic role of Russia and DPRK.” In other words, the response should be China lining up with Russia and DPRK against the United States. I have another example from your paper, Ren Min Ri Bao, here. It is from just last week, February 28, and it says “America's overall goal is to secure the total control of the Eurasian Continent, and the purpose of clearing the perimeter is to pave the way for ultimately subduing China and Russia." It continues “...this no longer is simply containment aimed at impeding expansion; rather, it is a way of choking aimed at controlling or even suffocating the other side." The author even writes “judging by the historical experience of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, containment will surely be accompanied by murder."
Here is another article from Jie Fang Jun Bao, that’s the military journal. It is a long critique of the United States, and it ends like this: “we [China] should cast away that pacifism and romanticism, which will easily evolve into capitulationism under pressure and threat. We should make full struggle preparation and war preparation. Only by doing so can China maintain a longer period of peace and development.”
You have a censored press—your press cannot talk about your government just because you feel like saying something. So your press is an official speaker and you are creating an atmosphere in China in which you are stirring up a very powerful social force, which is nationalism. ………..Your nationalism is also strong because at this stage of your history, you are acquiring a sense of success after a century and a half of bitter wars and domestic humiliation. So your nationalism tends to be dangerously strong, and if you’re not careful, you will not only make your relationship with Japan more difficult—and we are telling the Japanese all the time not to make the relationship with China more difficult—I’ve done it personally—but you’re making it more difficult not only to deal yourselves with the Japanese, but with us.
On whether Dr. Brzezinski has any advice to offer President Obama and President Xi:
Dr. Brzezinski: My advice is very simple. They have to meet often and talk to each other privately and with friendliness….They have to be able to talk to each other seriously about problems, about the kinds of things that I mentioned to you very directly. Because I feel that as an old friend of China, because I’ve been always very frank and direct with your leaders, I have a right to say that. I think we are moving into a phase in which your nationalism and our nationalism could become mutually adversarial. And that would be unfortunate…….
…….I think both President Xi and Obama ought to re-read the January 2011 Obama-Hu Jintao Communiqué, which is very ambitious and outlines exactly what is needed. And secondly, they should have regular meetings…….
You know the history of Asia better than I. Almost every relationship in Asia across the border is at least partially hostile. And that could break down. This is why I think that an American presence in the west Pacific can be stabilizing and therefore good for Asia, and particularly good for China, because if any country in Asia is the object of increasing fear on the part of some, it is China. Most people don’t fear Indonesia, they don’t fear the Indians, they don’t fear the Japanese anymore. The Japanese are getting old and they’re in a very different psychological state of mind because of World War II. People fear China. You could find yourself isolated. You’re big enough to survive it, it wouldn’t be terrible for you, but it would not be good either.
On what Dr. Brzezinski believes a code of conduct between the US and China should look like:
Dr. Brzezinski: …I think both President Obama and President Xi have a very good understanding of world affairs, a solid understanding of world affairs. If they decide to make a joint statement regarding a shared code of conduct, they’ll have no difficulties in drafting it themselves in thirty minutes.