President Bush says China should be more democratic. Chinese President Hu Jintao says his people already enjoy democratic freedoms. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Chinese leaders are moving toward greater freedoms, but still have a way to go.
At the start of this eight-day trip to Asia, President Bush delivered a keynote address on U.S. policy toward Asia, saying China's leaders can help their country grow into a modern, prosperous, and confident nation by meeting what he called the legitimate demands of its citizens for freedom and openness.
"As China reforms its economy, its leaders are finding that once the door to freedom is open even a crack, it cannot be closed," said Mr. Bush. "As the people of China grow in prosperity, their demands for political freedom will grow as well."
Following a meeting with President Bush in Beijing's Great Hall of the People Sunday, Chinese President Hu Jintao said his country already enjoys democratic freedoms.
"Notable and historic progress have been made in China's development of a democratic political system and human rights," replied Mr. Hu. "The Chinese people are exercising their right of democratic elections, democratic decision making, democratic management, and democratic supervision according to law."
Responding to President Hu's comments, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters that there has been some progress in China, but the system here is still not a competitive democracy.
"I think we all understand that a system that is open and competitive politically is one that is moving toward democracy, and there is no question but that China would have a way to go to meet that test," noted Ms. Rice. "I did think it was interesting that President Hu Jintao wanted to address the issue. That says that the president's message is getting through, that people understand that you can't just ignore these issues. I can remember times in the past where both here and in a number of other countries you were just told to mind your own business. Well, that's not the case now. They are trying to address it."
There are some elections at the village level in China, but the country is run by Communist Party leaders who are not elected by the public.