Former prime minister John Howard admits his government got off to a bad start with China.The key to dealing with China is focusing on areas of agreement rather than obsessing about disagreements, former Liberal prime minister John Howard says.
Mr Howard, who last week headed a top-level delegation to Beijing, says personal contact is very important in dealings with China.
“China is a different country, it’s got an authoritarian political system, ours is an open democracy,” he told AAP on Tuesday.
“Where we don’t have differences, you build on those, whilst recognising the differences.
“My view is that China recognises that far more than it sometimes admits.”
Mr Howard told a National Archives of event in Canberra on Tuesday his government got off to a bad start with China following its election in 1996.
sided with the US in a row with China over the Taiwan Strait. There was an argument with China over the status of certain ministerial visits to Taiwan.
Also, as a cost-cutting move, the government dismantled a program providing financial support for commercial activities almost exclusively devoted to China.
Mr Howard says it was decided at the time that before the 1997 APEC meeting he should hold a bilateral meeting with China’s president, Jiang Zemin.
“It was one of the most important meetings I had as prime minister,” he said.
“I said to Jiang Zemin that what we have to try and do is focus on areas where we agree rather than obsessing about areas where we don’t agree. To a large extent that is still important in China.”
At the end of the meeting the Chinese president commented: “It’s better face-to-face, isn’t it?”
Mr Howard subsequently visited China and Mr Jiang visited , and addressed federal parliament the day after US president George W Bush.
“The relationship really began to turn around as a result of that. Regular head of government meetings are very important to the Chinese,” he said.
“We should never apologise for our system and try and blend away the differences,” he said.
Mr Howard said he could not discuss what was said during his China visit last week.
“But the flavour of the meeting was that, OK, we have issues, we always will,” he said.
“China isn’t a democracy. They complained about our media and I made it very clear that we have a free media and we have a robust parliamentary system and we have an incorruptible judiciary. They are the foundations of our system and that’s not going to change.”
China was also not going to change, Mr Howard noted.Continue Reading →