Texas Gov. George W. Bush says that if he became president, he would change the relationship between China and the United States from “strategic partners” to that of “competitors.”
“That’s exactly how I’m going to redefine the relationship,” the Republican presidential front-runner said yesterday in a wide-ranging interview on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
On another foreign-policy issue, Mr. Bush said he would put pressure on Iraq to allow weapons inspectors back into that country. “And if we found out that they’re developing weapons of mass destruction, they wouldn’t exist anymore,” he warned.
Pressed to clarify that statement, Mr. Bush said he meant that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction would be destroyed.
The presidential hopeful, who critics charge suffers from both inadequate experience and knowledge about foreign policy, was grilled repeatedly on foreign issues in the CNN interview and neither stumbled nor waffled. He promised to be firm with Russia, China and Iraq and explained how.
“And upon swearing in, I would start the process … of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem” to show that he recognizes the ancient Holy City as Israel’s capital.
As for China, Mr. Bush said, “We’ve got to make it clear to the Chinese we don’t appreciate them spreading weapons of mass destruction, if they are so doing, throughout the subcontinent. We’ve got to make it clear to the Chinese that we’re going to respect and honor our friendships with Japan and South Korea and Taiwan.”
He says he supports the “one-China policy” and intends to let China and Taiwan know he believes that “will continue to lead to a peaceful resolution of their dispute.”
Gary Bauer, one of Mr. Bush’s Republican presidential rivals, has criticized Mr. Bush for having what he calls a “double standard” in that he supports trade with China, but not with Cuba. Both governments are communist and “repressive” … and [Mr. Bauer] says the Chinese abuse their citizens even, perhaps, worse than in Cuba,” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer told Mr. Bush.
The governor said he finds Chinese repression “unacceptable,” and he would deal with the problem if he became president. But he defended trading with China, saying “trade with China is direct trade with the entrepreneurial class.” The difference, he said, is that “any capital that goes to Cuba gets skimmed off” and is “used to prop up” the Castro regime.
Trading with China, he said, offers “an economic opportunity” for farmers and others in this country and provides the opportunity “to spread freedom.”
Mr. Bush was also asked what he would say to Vladimir Putin, the acting president of Russia, if he had a chance to talk to him today. “First, I’d say to Mr. Putin, I hope you have free and fair elections, and look forward to watching the will of the people,” the governor said, adding:
“Secondly, I would say, Mr. Putin … in order for you to have standing in the world of nations .!.!. you ought not to be bombing innocent women and children” in Chechnya.
Mr. Bush said he’d let the Russian chief know he’s “causing refugees to flee from your country” and that he would then issue a stern warning: “Therefore, until you decide not to do so, we won’t continue with the [International Monetary Fund] aid and/or export-import loans.”
However, Mr. Bush said he would ask Congress for increased funding to allow Russia to “continue to dismantle nuclear and tactical warheads.”