[These are President Carter’s remarks from a press conference on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in response to questions posed by Chinese new organizations.]
Wen Xian, People’s Daily: January 1, 2014 marks the 35 year anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties between the U.S. and China. This was the decision made by you and late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping jointly. Looking back, what’s you feeling and assessment of this decision?
President Carter: Well when I became president, I was disturbed that for 35 years, the United States and China had no diplomatic relations. We had decided to go just with Taiwan, as you know, when the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, on my birthday as a matter of fact. So I felt that it was time for me as a new president to change that relationship. Because I saw the future of the western pacific, of Asia, and indeed the entire world, could be benefited if the US and China, two great countries, could cooperate with each other. And it was very unpopular in my country, because of the alliances that had been formed with the government in Taiwan. So President Nixon–who said there was only one China, never would say which one–and so they continued to say that Taiwan was the only China. So, I began a very secret negotiation with Deng Xiaoping, though intermediaries, and we began to make good progress, because I could tell from across the earth that he did really want to see China change in its relationship with the outside world, not just with the United States. So because of that, we announced the decision on the 15th of December, that the new relationship would go into effect January 1st, and then three days later, he announced reform and opening up. So I’ve always felt that normalizing relations with the United States and reform and opening up were the same thing, and so I had felt great pleasure in the new understanding that is developing still between the two countries. But you have to realize that 35 year is a brief moment in history, and we still have a lot to learn about each other and how we can cooperate on sensitive issues, how we can be beneficial to the rest of the world. And that’s why we’re having this conference here, because The Carter Center feels that we have, not only an opportunity, but an obligation to take advantage of a chance to strengthen these ties.