Remarks by Speaker of the House of Rep.s Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the Brookings Institution - the Recent Congressional Delegation's Trip to China
Moderator: E.J. Dionne, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
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SPEAKER PELOSI: (Applause.) Thank you all. Thank you very much, E.J., for your kind invitation to return to Brookings. It's an honor to be here. Thank you for your kind words of introduction.
E.J. went through my life. I'll just tell you about the past week, on our trip to China. But it's wonderful to be here with some friends and some new acquaintances to talk about this important relationship. It's an honor to be here with Strobe Talbott, the president of Brookings Institution. Brooke and Talbott were such an incredible team, and we have all benefitted from their tremendous -- the tremendous intellectual resource they are to us in every way. Thank you, Strobe, for your leadership.
And John Thornton, the chairman of the board, who from my -- I want to share some of my experience in China, and hear the benefit of his really long-term relationship with China.
And Melissa Skolfield -- used to be with my statute of the vice president of the Brookings Institution. And each and every one of you. My friend Martin Indyk, right up here in front, with his book under his chair there, I see. (Laughs, laughter.)
Perhaps the best way to go about it, is just to tell you chronologically how this all unfolded. A few weeks -- a few months ago, the representatives of the Chinese government, the chairman of their foreign affairs committee and the ambassador, came to my office to extend an invitation on behalf of the chairman of the National People's Congress, to come to China on a head-of-state visit, and that our focus would be climate change.
And this is a trip that's part of my flagship issue. As speaker, I announced when I became speaker the flagship issue would be energy independence -- energy security and the climate, addressing the global climate crisis. We formed a select committee to do just that. Our committee has visited India, the EU, its member states. They've been to Brazil. We've been to Greenland. And now, in order to get -- to see the facts on the ground and the policy in the works, we were going to go to China, at the invitation of the Chinese government.
The -- okay, fast-forward to about 10 days ago. The secretary- general of the U.N., whom I know you heard from last night, came to my office on Thursday. We were to leave on Friday. And he said -- talked about climate change.
And I said, well, two years ago, when you came to my office, you said that if we didn't act by 2012, it may be too late on the climate change issue. He said, and I said, do you still stand by that dire prediction? He said, it's worse. The scientists have told us this has accelerated. It's worse. We must act. And Copenhagen is very important. And he said, I've coined a phrase. He probably said it last night. Seal the deal in Copenhagen. So be sure.
I said, well, this is, you know, the central purpose of our trip. But we'll talk about human rights, of course, North Korea and another issue of fiscal responsibility, in the United States, that we wanted to convey to the Chinese government.
Our trip included Ed Markey, who is the chairman of the select committee; Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who is the ranking member on the committee, Republican from Wisconsin; Congressman Blumenauer of Oregon and Congressman Jay Inslee of Washington State; Jackie Speier of California. They all had very valuable contributions to make to the discussion.
The -- on our way to China, we stayed overnight in Alaska. And for a day and a half, we saw what was happening, in our own country, on the issue of climate change.
Now, why this is important is, we see it as a national security issue, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We see it as an economic issue, an economic issue, an economic issue, to create new clean-energy jobs and to be competitive in our investments, in innovation and technology, so that we can be the world leader.
We see it as a health issue, from the standpoint of the environment and reducing pollution. And we see it as a moral issue, as I believe many of you do, that this is God's creation, this planet, and we have a moral responsibility to preserve it. And we've worked with the evangelical community in that, sitting at the table with scientists, talking about how we do this, in a way that does not harm the poor.
So this has been a very comprehensive issue in every way for us. And this trip was very important, because the U.S. and China are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. And we have to come to terms in order for us to come, I believe, to a multilateral agreement in Copenhagen.
So on the way we went to Alaska, and to see in our own country what we had seen in Greenland and heard about elsewhere -- but to see in our own country what was happening there, the melting of the polar cap. When you have a white polar cap, it reflects the sun. When that starts to melt and it's dark blue, it absorbs the heat and it affects the whole thermal regulation of the globe. It had an impact of melting the permafrost and that releasing the methane gases, the acidification of the ocean affecting the wildlife, the fauna, and to have, again, village leaders come from all over Alaska and tell us their villages were melting into the sea -- just for example of some of the consequences in our own country.
We arrived in China. We knew what we were going there to do, but of course, with our message reinforced from what we had had just seen, also equipped with a bill that had passed the Congress, the congressional committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday night, which was historic, momentous legislation on how we would go forward.
This was a whole game changer in our conversations with the Chinese, because all the intelligence that -- when I say "intelligence," I mean their own visits and the rest had told them that we probably would not act upon this challenge, and now we had, and we're on the way to passing the legislation in the Congress.
So that made our conversations quite different than they would have been -- the sense of urgency about what we saw, the sense of direction that this bill provided.
Well, now China does not border the Arctic, and they didn't have the same issues that Alaska had directly, but the whole world -- the whole planet is affected directly. And the glaciers are melting in the Himalayas, affecting the great rivers of Asia, all the way down to the Mekong Delta; the encroachment of the Gobi Desert growing more, and even sandstorms felt in Beijing; the possible rising sea level and how that affects the maritime areas of China -- everyone is affected.
And again, because we are the two big emitters, it was necessary for us to come to some understanding. And that was largely the purpose of our trip -- very focused.
The Chinese have done remarkable things.
We knew that before we went. We saw that firsthand, in terms of closing down coal-burning plants that were inefficient, building high- speed rail -- remarkable, remarkable high-speed rail, which we rode on in Shanghai and between China (sic) and Tianjin, just to visit some of what was happening in Tianjin -- the investments in research and actual construction of buildings in a different way so they'd be -- use less energy on -- in their construction. And on the ongoing, what they were doing in reducing energy-intense industries that use so much more energy, more expensively, and more costly to the environment. So they have done remarkable things.
But what they wanted to be clear to us is that, as they were doing this and they were investing in the technologies and the rest -- and when you see what they're doing, it's so remarkable, and they are to be commended for it. But they made clear to us, in addition, that they were going to be developing, still, the sustainable development, with I think more of an emphasis on the development side -- interested in the sustainability for sure, but also insisting that they would continue to develop. No matter what they were doing on the reducing of the use of energy and using the technologies, they would probably still be a net-gain emitter. And that's really not what -- where we have to be going.
And they start with an argument of "you developed the way you developed; now let us develop the way we develop." And it's a good point, except we wish that we knew better and we could have avoided some of the problems that we have.
They also say, "We make all these products. You buy them; you should pay for the emission." You know, that -- another one is that on a per capita basis, "we're low emitters." Which is true. (Laughs.) Only -- and so with -- these and other reasons were part of where they were staking out the claim, which is a fine -- is an okay place to start, but not good enough.
Oh, and that we -- the developed world should set aside 1 percent of its GDP and invest it in the developing world to do all of these things. And the other part of that -- is China really a developing nation? It is. It's sort of a hybrid. It's -- has a bigger middle class than the United States. It's estimated -- has a bigger middle class than all of the United States. (Laughs.) And it is a -- but it has its areas that are developing, so it must fall into some different category than either the United States or Mali. You know, it's something different.
You know, it's something different. There must be another category.
In any event, with all of the intellectual resources they apply to it -- the investments in technology, the needs that they have -- I don't know whether it's scientifically or only anecdotally. But what I have been told is that 600,000 -- almost 600,000 people a year die of air pollution in China.
Clean water in some areas is just an oxymoron. It just doesn't exist. So from an economic standpoint, China is on the move, developing and developing the technologies for the future.
From a political standpoint, the issue of clean air and clean water is a very personal issue. And if the Chinese people see it as a corruption issue -- they don't have clean air and clean water -- then that's a political issue for the Chinese.
So I see and I'll just conclude by saying this and take questions. I see -- I've said that the legislation was a game- changer, in terms of our conversations about, what is the urgency, and how are we going to go about doing this?
And we've taken a big first step to the whole issue of climate change being a game-changer, in our relationship with China and how we deal with subjects that relate to more freedom for the Chinese people. Which as you know is a very -- well, you may not know, but has been a very big issue, for me, for many years.
And I see it in this way. The issue of air and water is very immediate to people's lives. If they don't have it, they want to know why. They want to hold the government accountable. They want transparency. They want more openness in how these decisions are made.
They want more commitment to the rule of law, as spelled out in the Chinese constitution. And they want to -- if they see this as a corruption issue, it becomes problematic for the government, because a lot of what was going on, at the time of Tiananmen, was about corruption as much as wanting more freedom.
The -- as you know, yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. I wear this pin that was given to me, in China, by some of the people who would be part of some demonstrations in Hong Kong. They had 150,000 people the day before -- well, it was yesterday, I guess, but for us, the day before yesterday. So that spirit was not crushed, even though there was a crush -- well, you know what happened at Tiananmen Square.
I did speak to the president, the premier, the chairman of the National People's Congress, about human rights in China and Tibet, and told them this was -- in our discussions, as we go forward, will always be a priority for us.
The issue, again, of North Korea was an important part of our conversation, because it was going to be anyway, but with the tests taking place when we were in China on the, perhaps, nuclear weapon -- we think probably nuclear weapon -- and then the short-rain -- range missiles, this was important.
The Chinese clearly understand, as do we, that it's not in either country's interest for North Korea -- either of our countries' interest for North Korea to have a -- to have a weapon, and for the peninsula to be nuclearized. And what does that mean in terms of other countries? Iran is watching. What does Japan do? And what does it mean for proliferation?
I also, as I said, made the point that Congress is very committed to fiscal discipline as we go forward, in terms of our budget, to reduce the deficit and to invest in education, health care and energy as the three pillars that will energize our economy.
But as we did it, we had to do it in a fiscally sound way to bring down the deficit. They were asking for cuts from our appropriators that were passing PAYGO legislation so that you have to pay as you go, and other initiatives we are taking in that regard.
So that's what I did last week. (Laughter.) And I guess I said "and finally" too early, because I then had to -- a couple of other issues, finally, on the point of climate change.
But the -- we were received magnificently by the Chinese government. So you wondered, why are they -- one year ago, when I was in India visiting his holiness the Dalai Lama at -- in India, it was the time of the one-year anniversary; just a coincidence that our trip was planned long in advance, but they had a crackdown in China. So my association with the Dalai Lama in India at that time made me the most hated person in China.
And then several months later -- John is shaking his head in agreement -- (laughs) -- and several months later they come to the Capitol and say, "We want you to come with a head-of-state visit to China." I think it's a recognition of the role that Congress plays. It is a very important one. And they wanted to increase that communication. And there are so many issues that we have to deal with in a bilateral and then multilateral way that we thought it was important to accept, to increase that dialogue.
And in any event, I can't give you an appraisal -- I'm asking John Thornton to give me an appraisal -- of what we think. We think this contributed to communication in that. We were very frank about human rights. You know, you -- I can't go someplace -- they knew who they were inviting.
On the other hand, we had long discussions about other issues with business, with NGOs -- with G-NGOs, government non-governmental organizations -- (chuckles) -- with the private sector, such as it is, the state-run industries, with the AmCham, there at Tsinghua University, where John Thornton's the first American to be a professor there since 1949, since the People's Republic of China was established. Imagine, this great institution of higher learning, and John having the recognition that he has.
And the -- at every level we met with everyone, to see what was happening in the vision of the president of China and the implementation at every level across the board, down to the -- from the NGOs, and to hear what the students thought about this.
So it was a very positive trip from our standpoint. I hope that it brings us closer to some agreement on -- in preparation for Copenhagen. But I can tell you for sure that they are on the move, and doing many of the right things in terms of making them -- reducing their energy emissions. But their development, as I say, on the other hand, may make them a net emitter. How do we come to terms between our two countries, in a cooperative spirit, recognizing that we can't expect them to do what we do, but we do expect them to do something that is commensurate with their -- with their capacity?
So with that, I thank you very much for your attention. If there's anyone who just loves the opportunity to tell you what they did on their week out of town -- (laughs, laughter). Thank you for your attention to -- which I think is a very important issue. And I think we made some steps forward in communication and understanding on this issue. I really can't tell you what the Chinese will do, but I think there are steps they'll be negotiating with the executive branch, of course, as we go forward.
Once again, I want to thank the Brookings Institution for this opportunity to come by and tell you what I did during the Memorial Day district work period, and thank you for the opportunity to do so.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. (Applause.)
So here's how we'll do it. I'm going to ask one question. Then I'm going to ask John Thornton to ask the first question, not because he's chairman of the board, but because he is one of -- the only or one of the few Chinese professors in this audience. So -- and then I'll open it up. Just -- folks, you can put up your hands and I'll call on you and we'll get as many people in as possible.
I just learned some very important. If you have enough capitas -- you can do almost anything with per-capita numbers in China. (Laughter.)
SPEAKER PELOSI: (Chuckles.)
MR. DIONNE: Very lucky that way.
I wanted to press you on the human rights issue. You have a reputation as one of the most outspoken -- you've earned a reputation as one of the most outspoken people in Congress on human rights. That goes back 20 years. A lot of the press accounts sort of talked about how publicly you had downplayed that during this visit. Does that reflect a change in view, or do you just view the trip a little differently than others might have?
SPEAKER PELOSI: No, I just disagree with the press accounts.
MR. DIONNE: Yeah, I thought you might say that.
SPEAKER PELOSI: (Laughs.)
MR. DIONNE: (Chuckles.)
SPEAKER PELOSI: No, before the speaker leaves on a trip, you really don't say what your agenda is, both your scheduled at agenda or your -- from a security standpoint, what your agenda is. And somebody asked me at a meeting, "Are you talking about human rights?" I said -- well, I just walked out, and they said, "She's not talking about human rights." But we did talk about human rights.
But I have to make this statement. When I -- 19 years -- 1991, when -- when was that? -- 18 years ago, I went to Tiananmen Square as a member of Congress, relatively new member of Congress, to -- and we unfurled a banner in Tiananmen Square about human rights in China, got chased out of Tiananmen Square by the police. The -- I could reflect my own views and those of my constituents.
As speaker of the House, I had the opportunity to sit like this across from the president of China, the premier of China, the chairman of the National People's Congress of China, and express those views more directly. What I did then was appropriate for then, I think. Some may not agree that I should be unfurling the banner in Tiananmen Square. And the opportunity and access that I had was appropriate to the speaker of the House.
But there was no way that we would go to China and not talk about human rights, and -- in China and Tibet, and with the idea that our future meetings -- because we're going to have more meetings on other subjects with the National People's Congress -- would always include a discussion of human rights.
I don't know that I really saw that much of an improvement in human rights in China when we were there. The -- there's no question -- and we complimented the government -- the lifting of hundreds of millions of people out of poverty is a remarkable achievement and especially in that period of time.
And we commended them for that.
We met -- our first visit, when we got there, was with, excuse me, Bishop Jin, the Catholic bishop of Shanghai. And he told us that things had improved for Catholics in Shanghai area. And we went to their church. And that's for underground Catholics; it is not for other religious faiths. It's not.
So with China, it's so big, you see, you can make almost any case, in terms of freedom of religion. Yes, it has improved here. No, it hasn't improved there. But I don't think there's any question, and John may disagree, that you cannot speak out about -- they have something called Charter 08 that 5,000 people have signed, Charter 08, which is about more openness in China, politically speaking. And the person who initiated that is of course in prison.
This past week, during the Tiananmen 20th anniversary, there was a real crackdown on how communication was going through the Internet. So I did not see real political -- again you see what you see. But I, you know, I talked to a lot of people in preparation.
And yesterday and the day before and the day before, when we got back, we had a number of Tiananmen Square observances: on the floor of the House, a bill that got all but one vote, in favor of it, to have an open investigation, independent investigation, as to what happened at Tiananmen Square, among other things that do that.
I met with the dissident community, in my office yesterday, three prisoners who just got out. These are the ones who threw paint on Mao's picture in Tiananmen Square at the time of 20 years ago. And they just got out of prison. And they were in my office yesterday.
We had a rally on the grounds of the capital with Wang Dan, one of the leaders of Tiananmen, Chai Ling, et cetera. And then we had, with Harry Wu, we have an exhibition, an exhibit of paintings in the -- pictures in the Rayburn Building.
So we have memorialized what happened then, still wondering that 20 years later, people are still being incarcerated for speaking out about anything other than the partyline.
So you know, I wish that that picture were better. I don't know that peaceful evolution -- economic reform will lead to political reform -- really did that.
And I know that just our advocacy didn't accomplish any more freedom in China. So somehow or other, we have to find a way to do that.
Because -- well, let me just read you what President Obama said in his speech. This is what he said: He said -- in Cairo -- he said, "I do not have" -- "I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: The ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas. They are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere."
And I say, if we do not speak out for human rights in China and Tibet, we lose moral authority to speak out for them anywhere. And so somehow we have to -- I'm so pleased that Senator Clinton has said, in her quote, "should examine openly the darker events of the past and provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal." We want to go forward. We want to go forward. But we have some -- there are still some issues as we go forward. So now this is a relentless pursuit of mine.
I would just -- be pleased to answer any other questions that --
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. John?
Q Madame Speaker, first of all, thank you for coming to Brookings and thank you for your comments.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you, John.
Q And also, I want to thank you for going to China and hope many of your colleagues will take up your example.
SPEAKER PELOSI: We are going to do that.
Q Now, my -- I really want to ask a question on behalf of my students at Tsinghua, because I teach a course on global leadership. The seminar is constantly focused on individual leaders around the world. They're fascinated by you. They admire you, and really for two reasons; one, because of your -- as a woman in such a senior position -- they are fascinated by that. And they're also fascinated with the question, what do you think of China? I'll put the question another way around. In that -- the 18 years you just described, from '91 until now, how has your view evolved or changed?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you, John. As I may have indicated when I said "students," I did mention, I think, that I went to Tsinghua University, where John is a -- I mentioned John's role, but -- and the students were wonderful. And they -- you know, they were lovely and gracious, and we had a nice meeting such as this. But no lunch. (Laughter.) And they -- that, I guess, came later for them.
They were very interested in the fact that I was a woman and in this position of power. That was -- and how could that happen for them? We talked about that. I told them to read my book, "Know Your Power." (Chuckles.) No, but -- no, I answered more broadly. That --
MR. DIONNE: (Inaudible) -- needs Martin's book. (Laughter.)
SPEAKER PELOSI: It isn't that my view has changed so much as my role has changed.
I'm speaker of the House, and we have to deal with these issues in a different way than if you're an advocate. I mean, I never lose my advocacy, but as leader, you have to make certain other decisions.
We have -- as the world has changed in that period of time, it's about human rights, and that's fundamental to who we are, our core value. We also have issues to deal with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- witness South -- excuse me, North Korea, for example. We have the U.N., our relationship at the U.N., which is so important if we're going to deal with proliferation, if we're going to deal with Iran, if we're going to deal with North Korea, if we're going to deal with Darfur -- which is, of course a big issue -- just to name a few, and if we're going to interest -- if we're going to deal with preserving God's beautiful creation, this planet, we have to have communication. And hopefully, that communication and signs of respect in it -- you know, not just a conversation, but increasing our confidence in each other, will lead to some solution, because (it's ?) just too big,
But it goes back to when I was a little girl, and probably -- well, you're all too young, but some of a certain age who may be viewing may remember that when we were little, we were told if we dug a hole in the sand, we would reach China; when you're at the beach, you'll reach China. And what I said to them there is, I said we're going to reach across the globe in the hand of friendship and try to work out some of our challenges. But we have to do it with candor, and we don't have to always keep -- you know, we have to go forward as we do so. But it is, as I said to you, a remarkable thing, lifting these people out of poverty.
The problem that I have is that -- people say, well, in Taiwan and Korea and different places, economic reform led to political reform and that will happen. What I see in China is that the economic reform is being used to suppress the political reform. We have a job. Okay I'm happy. So it isn't the natural, peaceful evolution, which they really never subscribe to.
So I'm hoping to understand it better, to find ways that we can communicate that, honor the sacrifice that the human rights activist leaders at Tiananmen and since and before have made, and again, see how we can work together. So -- you know, I'm blessed with a beautiful Chinese-American population in my district. And I'm sure that other people should be very envious if they came to my district and saw what that means in terms of the vitality of our area.
So we're connected, whether through the sand, across the globe, or personally through our constituents.
MR. DIONNE: Please, over here. If you could introduce yourself, too.
Q Yes, I will. Madame Speaker, my name is Alan Daks (ph) --
SPEAKER PELOSI: Hi, Alan (sp).
Q -- from San Francisco California.
SPEAKER PELOSI: There we are. So you know.
Q My question is the following: My impression of Chinese leadership is that they do very little without thinking it through very thoroughly. Did you get a sense, when you were there, of what they have in mind for our relationship with them?
SPEAKER PELOSI: The -- in my conversation with President Hu, he mentioned that he had a good meeting with President Obama at the G-20, and in fact he had -- they had spoken by telephone twice since then. And he said it with some friendship in his voice. And when I went to -- after I got home, I -- just for regular business that we do, I went to see the president about health care and energy on Tuesday. And I told him -- he said, be sure to give my regards to the president. And then the president, when I did that, he said: Well, I'll be talking to him soon. So I think they have established a good rapport, a respectful rapport.
And no question, we are competitors. We are economic competitors. And that's all right. I mean, that's what the world is about. We're economic competitors. We have our issues, in terms of market access and currency issues, whatever. But we should be able to have enough communication to work them out, because it's in each country's benefit to do so.
So I have to be optimistic. I have to be optimistic. I -- you know, I could argue this either way. But I prefer to argue it -- to talk about it from a positive standpoint, because you know, it has to happen. We have to have a climate change agreement. We have to come to terms on how we deal with North Korea's possible development and proliferation of weapons. We have to stop Iran from having -- becoming a nuclear state. You know, we have to work together on these issues.
So the more confidence-building that we can do, the better. But I cannot -- you have to ask John the question as to how. You know, I thought you were going to say go another place. I thought you were going to say why do they think -- you think they invited you?
I mean this was an incredible show of hospitality. In fact, the embassy said they never saw anybody meet all three -- you know, with all three -- the president, the premier, the National People's Congress. Not that our president wouldn't have access to anyone, but that hasn't been what has happened before.
Well, I want -- I always like to pay my respects to the culture. So I said, I cannot ever go to Beijing without going to the Forbidden City. I just love going there. Shut down completely. They said, we can't even remember when we saw nobody in the Forbidden City; not a person except for -- so they, in gestures of hospitality, they extended themselves in a very generous way.
John would have to tell us what all of that means. But it does mean that we have an opportunity that, I think, we should try to take advantage of and assume the best but ever vigilant, ever vigilant in terms of what the course of action could be, on any of those issues.
MR. DIONNE: By the way, John will have a news conference after this event, to answer all the questions the speaker has referred to him.
SPEAKER PELOSI: No. He's going to have a conversation with me. (Laughter.)
Q Madame Speaker, Richard Bush here at Brookings. Nice to see you.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Hi, Richard. How are you?
Q I'm curious what your Chinese hosts told you about North Korea and what we should do about it. Our interests are not identical. So I wonder, what's the degree of cooperation that we can forge, on this dangerous issue?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you, Richard. Wonderful to see you again.
Some of us went to China with the idea, I mean, I've always thought, over time, that the Chinese had a great deal of influence over the North Koreans. They give them a lot of money. (Off mike.)
They give them a lot of money. They're close neighbors and the rest. And you know, in the past, the Chinese and the North Koreans -- the Chinese have said, China and North Korea are as close as lips and teeth. You remember that, Richard. And so they had this close relationship.
The impression I got, from the Chinese, was that they have influence, but it's not total. And in fact, not from the Chinese but from other sources, that the North Koreans really don't like it to look as if the Chinese have even as much influence as they have.
So we made it clear that we want -- my message was to reinforce the State Department message of, can you help bring them back to the six-party talks?
This is very important, that they come back to the six-party talks. And the U.S. can treat them with respect, the North Koreans with respect, within that venue, which is what they want, is some face.
So -- and they've said, well, they had some ability to do that, but not unlimited ability to do that -- but, as I've said before, recognition that it's in no one's interest for that nuclear -- that Korean peninsula to become nuclear, and what that meant, again, for South Korea, Japan and other countries that were watching because of their own nuclear ambitions. But they -- the impression I had at every level was, they considered this a very big deal, a very big deal, that North Korea get back to the table.
They have an interest in stability of North Korea. And they pay money, yeah, but they get a more stable North Korea, because if that destabilizes, they get the refugees, all of the rest. I'm trying to be brief, but -- and in any event, it's a -- I think they -- everybody sounded -- very troubling, very important to get them to the table. The Chinese didn't want to have the full responsibility of doing that, although they knew they had a role in that.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. Please.
Q Vicki (sp) Sant, trustee of Brookings.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Hi, Vicki (sp).
Q Hi, nice to see you.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Nice to see you.
Q Madame Speaker, for years China had a policy of one child. And I'm wondering if, during your visit there, you were able to see the impact of that policy, and if you could speak a little bit to what the current policy is, if it has changed or if it's the same.
SPEAKER PELOSI: I believe that the policy is the same. The question that I was asked -- I think maybe -- I don't know if it was in Hong -- well, since my trip into mainland China, perhaps when we came back, was, "Do you think that the U.N. should -- U.S. should cut off its support for the U.N. Population Fund because of the -- because -- that it promotes abortion in China? Well, no, I don't, because I don't think it does promote abortion in China. But the -- I -- as far as anything I know is that the one-child policy is still in effect.
The only thing I can say about it is, when the earthquake hit a few -- several months ago, and the school building collapsed and the children died, and the surrounding buildings, which were, like, maybe government buildings, did not collapse, there was so much anger because with the One China policy -- one-child policy -- even if you had five children you would still be horrified by the loss of a child -- but the devastation to these families.
So the Chinese tried to buy some of the -- peace with some of the families so that they wouldn't speak out, and others just are still speaking out.
So from the standpoint of what that means when you lose a child, in a one-child family -- again, if you had 10 children, it would still be a horrible thing.
But if I may just go to another point. What I heard, when I was there, about the issue of corruption -- because this was the issue, was there corruption involved in the fact that these buildings stayed secure and this school did not, and who made those decisions and we want somebody to be accountable.
I don't think the Chinese people see the government as the corrupt place, the national -- if that's the word -- government. And then they're here and then all that's in the middle are the local governments and municipal governments and businesses that have been privatized at the expense of the workers. That is to say, they place a low price on it, one of the managers buys it, doesn't manage it well, blames it on the workers. You know, all that kind of a thing.
So from the standpoint of whether it's a school falling or the jobs being lost or foul air or dirty water or whatever it is, it's more viewed in that middle place. Again, this is just by studying it over the years, but by no means an expert, but this is the impression that I come away with.
And I think that's really important, especially when we talk about air pollution and clean water, which are very immediate to people's lives. If that's the way it is, that's the way it is. But if that's the way it is because government is corrupt or not accountable, or because regional governments are not honest, I think that that's an anger that they will have to deal with.
But I don't know -- I know of no change in the one-China -- one- child in China policy.
MR. DIONNE: Carlos. And then -- (inaudible). I'll just call on people as I see you. Then go all the way back to Tom. Carlos.
Q Madame Speaker, thank you again for joining us.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Hi, Carlos.
Q If I can take you back to the theme of climate change and the intersection of climate change and politics. There are some in the United States who have argued that the only way that it's possible to get climate change legislation passed is if there is some form of a trade adjustment measure; others call it a cross-border carbon tax, arguing in particular that China will be exporting dirty products to the United States. Others have argued that that's not the case. You've just seen the Chinese arguments, not just on the per capita issues, but real aggressive measures that have been taken on infrastructure, on fuel efficiency standards and so forth.
How do you plan to handle this issue in the U.S. Congress? And what are the dangers, do you see, of moving down that track with the trade adjustment measures, in terms of in fact actually getting any kind of cooperation between the United States and China?
SPEAKER PELOSI: I'm sure you all heard the question.
The -- in our legislation in our Energy and Commerce Committee, it doesn't deal with tariffs. That goes to the Ways and Means Committee, and they are yet to act upon the bill. But if there were to be such a border tax or whatever, this would be something down the road, and hope that we wouldn't have to do.
That doesn't mean, though, that in the bill we don't mitigate for the cost of production, if you are doing it in an environmentally sound way, or if you're not doing it in an environmentally sound way. Whether it's steel, glass, cement, you name it, it is -- there are many products where just doing it an environmentally sound way will be more expensive than not. And of course, in China, you factor in the cost of labor in that.
But we're just talking now about the climate change aspects of it. It's very specific. I'd like for you to read it, but it would be for the Ways and Means Committee to act upon whatever tax there might be. And my understanding of what the conversations are, is that would be something down the road, if necessary. But again, we haven't gone to Ways and Means yet.
MR. DIONNE: Bill Antholis.
Q Speaker Pelosi, again, thank you for coming.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Hi, Bill.
Q Another question to the politics of diplomacy, but on the back end of an agreement. The Kyoto process was structured as a treaty process requiring 67 votes in the Senate. We have trade agreements that are quite similar to climate change agreements, which happen in successive rounds. But they're done as congressional executive agreements, which gives your House a vote in the action and lowers the barrier in the Senate to 51 votes, or at least 60 to get cloture. And I just wondered your thoughts on this. Do you want a piece of the action on the back end of this agreement?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, we just want to save the planet -- (laughter) -- protect the American people, make it healthier and all.
You -- I wish that you -- may I take this opportunity to say this?
On our trip, the knowledge that Mr. Markey conveyed to them was dazzling on every aspect of the bill, including what could happen on border taxes and the rest. But he was speaking to mostly what his committee had already done.
Mr. Sensenbrenner, the ranking Republican on the committee, was very, shall we say, definite in his views that while the U.S. and China might come to some agreement in friendship, the Congress of the United States still had a role to play, and he wanted to be sure they were aware of his concerns. And his concerns centered around intellectual property -- you know Jim Sensenbrenner's from Wisconsin. He's a champion on civil rights and human rights; civil rights here, human rights in the world. He's also -- he's chair of the Judiciary Committee and he's the chair of the Science Committee. So he knows the innovation issues and the intellectual property issues and the human rights issues very well.
And he was very forceful in terms of how we go forward with intellectual -- innovation and respect for property, intellectual property rights and the rest, and very forceful in saying, whatever it is -- you know, giving leverage, I think, to our U.S. negotiators by saying it's not just the executive branch that you have to please. There are people from all over the country who have different views on this subject, and he is one of them, and he's a leader in the Congress on it.
And may I just say, while I'm on the subject of Mr. Sensenbrenner, he reinforced the human rights message at every meeting. He said, "I want you to be sure that you understand that what the speaker is saying is not a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans alike have shared this concern about human rights in China and Tibet." And again, he was very forceful but he -- and he always has been.
On the -- so you know it would have to be -- the U.S.-China agreement is one thing. The Copenhagen agreement is another. And that, if it is in the form of a treaty -- you know, if it's that well developed at Copenhagen that it becomes a treaty vote in the Congress, you know it's going to have to be something that will get great support.
So that's why we think that the bill that we have written -- because it addresses regional concerns in our country -- that we have to move together.
It isn't, shall we say, "Oh, I'll just sit down and write an -- the ideal philosophical bill that I'll write." It will say, in consideration of coal and oil and natural gas and the auto -- well, I have the coal patch, the oil patch, the car patch, the every patch that we have to deal with -- the steel patch.
So all of these industries have to move -- we all have to move forward together. So to get to 67 votes we have to, every step of the way, recognize that we're all in this together. And that's our message to the Chinese as well: We're in this together. We share this planet. We have to make a decision that is very positive -- if for no reason, the air our people breathe and the water that they drink, but for many other reasons beyond that.
In addition, Mr. -- while I'm on the subject of my colleagues -- Mr. Jay Inslee from Washington state, his strong message was about, China cannot really be considered, strictly speaking, a developing country. And he had all kinds of sports analogies and the rest to go with it. And he brought humor to the conversation in a clear way to deliver that message.
And Mr. Blumenauer is Mr. Sustainability in the Congress -- of Oregon -- and he talked in a very appreciative way of -- for what the Chinese have done, but also what needs to be done as they develop more of the country, in a sustainable way.
Jackie Speier of California, she was interested in, do you think we can come to terms. You see -- and everybody addressed her issue. So we have to come to terms in a realistic way, respecting what they have done, understanding what our challenge is. But also, it has to be enforceable -- implementable and enforceable.
And when we were there, John Kerry was there -- I know Teresa was here; I'm not sure she's still here -- but he, you know, he's been such a leader on this subject. And I think we were all impressed on -- with what we saw when we were there.
MR. DIONNE: By the way, I just want to say, I -- Tom Mann's got the mic. I want to say to my friends and colleagues and the press in the back, when we set this up, the Q&A part was with the Brookings crowd. Brendan Daly told me he would set something up for you folks afterwards, so I don't want you hurting your hands back there. This particular session is -- the Q&A comes -- was for the Brookings crowd. And so I'm sure Brendan will arrange something for you.
Q Thank you.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Hi, Tom. How are you?
Q Madame Speaker, the extraordinary treatment you experienced, in China, clearly reflects the fact that the Chinese understand the importance of Congress in our --
MR. DIONNE: Which just happens to matter to you a lot. (Laughter.)
Q But as you know, the institution was much maligned, under a recent unified Republican government, when it failed to act as an independent body, pulled its punches with oversight, with tough questioning.
Here's the question. How are you doing so far, in finding a balance between cooperating with and working with a president whose values and agenda you share and, at the same time, maintaining the independence of the first branch of government, with oversight, with argument and disagreement and deliberation?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you, Tom. (Laughter.)
MR. DIONNE: (Inaudible.) When are you going to go after Obama?
(Laughter, cross talk.)
SPEAKER PELOSI: Didn't I just read from his beautiful statement? And wasn't it a triumphant speech?
We are a separate branch of government, Article One, Article One. Some members walk around with pins that say Article One. (Laughs.) John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Kentucky, started that movement.
It is -- we understand our independent responsibility, of where legislation begins and especially, in some cases, in the House, where our oversight responsibilities are clear. And they are responsibilities that we must honor.
We also need to get a job done for the American people. So how can we -- we always wanted to work, in a cooperative way, with President Bush. We just didn't have too many shared priorities.
That's just the way it was. But many of the things that the president wanted, we got for him, for example, TARP funding, a very bitter pill for us to swallow. But the president made the case that the country needed it, when President Bush was president, and we passed it. The Democrats passed it, not the Republicans.
So we have always been open to working with whomever the president of the United States is. And that is something the American people expect and deserve, that we make -- find common ground to move forward, to make -- take initiatives that are relevant to their lives.
And of course, in this time of economic really turmoil in their lives, we have a heightened responsibility to find solutions.
So -- we're so proud of Barack Obama as president of the United States. Let me not -- and I said to the caucus yesterday, I said -- I was trying to convince them of something, and I said, "You know, everybody says they want leaders, but do you really want to be led? The president needs us to do this." This was the IMF. (Laughs.) And our members are supportive of that. But, you know, in the scheme of things, as you're weighing the equities, that, I think, should count for something. Because whether you're dealing with China or whatever you're dealing with, if you can be unified in it, even if it's something less than your ideal proposal, that unity and that action that you would take is very valuable, and we consider it part of our responsibility.
So we are a second branch -- we are, Article I, first branch of government, we are a separate branch of government. We see our responsibility to work together in the Congress in a bipartisan way and with whoever the president of the United States is.
And I say that now taking special pride in the fact that Barack Obama is the president of the United States. He's committed to working together in a bipartisan way, and I salute him for that.
I have to, at the need of the day, get a job done, and that's what I have to do for the American people. And we're very proud of the record that we have to date and as we go forward on education, health care and energy -- and fiscal soundness. As I told President Hu, this is our mantra, fiscal responsibility. So we'll work with the president on that, as well.
But it's the dynamic of our country. You know, I sometimes -- oh, I wish this or this or that. It is the dynamic. If everybody thought alike, (we'd only have to ?) have one person show up. So we have this beautiful diversity. It invigorates our system. And it, I think, produces a more legitimate result because it does represent many more people.
So Congress will be heard, respectfully.
MR. DIONNE: And I'm told we've got time for one more question. There's one more Somebody has the mike.
I was thinking as you were talking, in the democracy we want leaders, and we don't want to be led. That's the way it works. (Laughter.)
MR. DIONNE: Sir?
Q Madame Speaker, Ken Lieberthal with the Brookings Institution.
SPEAKER PELOSI: How are you? Nice to see you.
Q Very good to see you again. Thank you for your comments. You noted that you had a lot of credibility with Chinese leaders when you explained to them the cap-and-trade legislation had cleared the Markey committee in the House. Given that we have a presidential summit between the U.S. and China coming up late this year, and Copenhagen coming up in December, did they press you on when cap-and- trade would actually clear the entire Congress and be signed by the president?
SPEAKER PELOSI: No.
Q And whether they did or not, what is your own view on that subject? Thank you.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, the -- I can only speak from the standpoint of the House, as you know. And we will pass our legislation in the House. But the difference between not passing it in the committee -- you know, again, nothing -- and then this giant step, was really drastic.
At the same time I was in China, my colleague, Steny Hoyer, who is Danish, was in Copenhagen. And he was being knighted by the queen, and he was also talking to them about the much-anticipated meeting in Copenhagen. They, of course, would like to see a big success in Copenhagen, and they would like to see a bill signed into law by the time we get there. I know we can do our part in the House of Representatives.
I think they were mostly interested that we took the giant step. And some kept -- some would say, "when it's law," and we'd say, no, we're talking about -- you know, we have two-year sessions, so we will get this to be law, whether it's this -- I think it could be this year. But I wasn't placing any requirement of that for us to go to further conversations with the Chinese, or to Copenhagen, and I think they knew that. But the -- day and night, day and night, between having it pass the House committee.
By the way, through our House committee, it represents America. It's a very diverse committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee. Every school of thought on the subject, every patch that I mentioned earlier, represented. So for them to come out with a big, strong vote the way they did was really a very big statement -- probably the biggest step. And now we'll go to the next step. But they took notice, you know.
But again, I don't like to set any artificial dates on things that I don't have to set a date on, because that empowers the other side.
I don't mean the Chinese are the other side. (Laughs.) I just mean anybody who doesn't believe in climate change. There are still people who don't believe that global warming is happening and that human behavior has any impact on it.
I think from the body language I'm find out that Mr. Dionne thinks that this has come to an end? Is that --
MR. DIONNE: Well, I don't. But I'm told by your staff that it's supposed to. Are we out of time?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Oh. (Inaudible.)
MR. DIONNE: I would love to continue it.
SPEAKER PELOSI: I think this gentleman has one more.
MR. DIONNE: One more. She's overridden her staff on this, but --
SPEAKER PELOSI: This last question is always the one (people ?) don't want.
MR. DIONNE: Actually, she's creating the illusion that she overrode her staff on this. (Laughter.)
Q Madame Speaker, thank you very much for sharing your time with us today.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you.
Q Bob Abernathy from the City of the Angels.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Oh, wonderful, another Californian.
Q A few months ago, a group of us in Brookings visited China, and I had the opportunity to say to Premier Wen, "You know, Mr. Premier, in a couple of weeks from now, we are going to elect a new speaker of the House. And my question for you is, when she's elected, if you were her uncle, what advice would you give her?"
SPEAKER PELOSI: (Chuckles.)
Q And he said three things. He said, "One, I would wish her well." He said, "Two, I would hope that she would follow the Constitution of the United States." And he said, "Three, I hope that she would pick three programs that were mutually beneficial to China and to the United States to work on."
My two quick questions are: One, what do you think he meant by the constitutional remark? And two, if you were to choose three programs that fit that criterion, which ones would you choose?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, let me say -- thank you for your question.
And Premier Wen is sort of the point person in the leadership. John confirms to me that the president is the president, and then the chairman of the National People's Congress is number two, and the premier is number three.
The premier has a large responsibility for the energy initiative in China. He's totally conversant, very knowledgeable, and a leader on the subject. And in fact, I think he had apologized for not meeting certain goals. He takes that much responsibility for it. So I thank him for wishing me well, and he did when we were there as well.
Honoring the Constitution -- well, that's the oath of office we all take when we are sworn in. And the Constitution makes us the freest people in the world, and we honor it. And I would say in return to President (sic) Wen that I wish they would honor the Chinese constitution, because the Chinese constitution is a good constitution on individual rights, on intellectual property rights and the rest. So we always keep saying just honor the Chinese constitution. So the feeling's mutual. (Laughter.)
And third, I would say certainly our first responsibility is -- oh, of the three issues, our first responsibility as we take that oath to the Constitution is to protect the American people. Our national security is our first -- if our people are not safe, then what? So in issues of national security for the world, and again that relates to proliferation and fighting terrorism and the rest.
The issue of preserving our planet and all that that -- and all that that revolves, in that respect. And there are many competitors for number three.
There are many competitors for number three, because I think so many things fall under the climate change issue. But I do think that issues that relate to the alleviation of poverty and the eradication of disease worldwide, and how we can work together on that, are issues that relate to our national security.
So a place where we can work together, whether it's Darfur or wherever, national security, addressing the climate change issue and lifting up people in the world, how we can work together, to do that.
Again I was very honored to receive this invitation. We've extended the invitation back to the chairman of the National People's Congress, Chairman Wu. Chairman Li, who extended the invitation originally, I think, is going to be here next. It's either next week or the week after. But he's coming back, so we can formally extend the invitation and try to see what a date will be, when Chairman Wu will come here. But he was again very interested in continuing the dialogue on many subjects.
So I told him how excited we were about our new ambassador, that he was so great. And they seemed enthusiastic. And they said, tell us about him. And I said, oh, if I could tell you one thing, I would tell you this -- he loves China -- well, maybe two. He loves China. And he has the ear of the president of the United States. And so they seemed to like that. (Laughter.)
Would that be good, Martin, for an ambassador?
Q Yes, absolutely. (Off mike.) (Laughter.)
SPEAKER PELOSI: But it shows the importance of the relationship. We read very carefully the announcement that the president made, when he announced that ambassadorship. And they were very pleased that he stood there with the president. The president made -- that was all very meaningful to them, that it wasn't a press release but it was a personal announcement, by the president.
So let's all hope that it leads to a better understanding -- in furtherance of our national security, preserving our planet and the well-being of the people of the world -- and that again a part of that is respecting the human rights of all of those people as well.
Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, E.J.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. Oh, it was great -- it was great that you came.