Madam Prime Minister, Mr. Minister, members of the family of the late President Gopallawa, distinguished guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,
I must begin by thanking the family of the late President William Gopallawa for inviting me to deliver this Gopallawa Birth Centenary Lecture. The links which my family had with the late President beginning in Matale in the early decades of this century : my own contacts, albeit infrequent, with him; and the fact that we both represented our country in China and in the United States of America are the only credentials I carry with me. Nevertheless I am both gratified and humbled by the honour of being given this task of paying homage to a great and good son of Sri Lanka.
That gratification, Madam Prime Minister, is greatly enhanced by the fact of your gracious presence to chair this occasion. For it was during your first Premiership that William Gopallawa was appointed Governor-General and, again, it was in your second Premiership that he became the first President of Sri Lanka under the Republican Constitution of 1972. For me personally, your presence has a special poignancy since my formative years as a Sri Lankan diplomat were spent with you as Prime Minister and Minister of Defence and External Affairs – years when we could all be proud that your foreign policy leadership earned us indisputable recognition and respect throughout the world culminating in the Fifth Non-aligned Summit Conference held here in Colombo in 1976. My own association with your memorable State Visit to China in 1972 will remain a high watermark in my career in addition to interpreting your speeches from Sinhala into Chinese both in Beijing's Great Hall of the People and here at the opening of the BMICH in 1973. While history has vindicated you by returning you to office once again as one of our most respected leaders in the 50 years of our independence, I would like to pay my modest tribute to you for being a role model of great courage and stoic forbearance amidst the adversity unfairly heaped upon you, suffering the slings and arrows of your opponents with enviable equanimity.
Thirty-five years ago when William Gopallawa was sworn in as the second national of this country to be Governor-General, a Sinhala daily carried the headline" Pihatu Thoppiya Katugayta" (The plumed hat goes to the Museum!). The plumed hat worn by all Governors of British colonies and ex-colonies symbolized the anachronism of the survival of British colonial traditions 14 years after we had regained our independence in 1948 and well into the widely acclaimed Age of the Common Man ushered in by the socio-political groundswell of 1956. Gopallawa's simple gesture of opting for national dress rather than the official uniform of the Governor-General and the traditional ceremonies surrounding his swearing-in were not acts of political expediency calculated to win him popular favour. Quite apart from the constitutional convention that the Governor-General was above politics, Gopallawa was not, for most of his career, a professional politician. Apart from a brief foray into electoral politics in Matale, being elected Chairman of the Matale Urban Council, he held the position of Municipal Commissioner both in Kandy and later in Colombo before embarking upon a diplomatic career.
Thus Gopallawa had greatness thrust upon him. But very unlike others catapulted into positions of power and prestige, his dignity and poise graced the office he was appointed to. To the end he remained the simple and unostentatious man he was before his appointment. Of how many who hold public office can that be said? Born in Dullewa near Matale a hundred years ago today, Gopallawa was educated at Dharmarajah and St.Anthony's College in Kandy. After graduating from Law College he practised law in Matale. His strong social conscience led him to work actively in the Social Service League and in the temperance movement of the time. Gopallawa's patriotism came naturally. Aluvihara, not far away, remained famous as the hallowed place where the Buddhist scriptures had been committed to writing. His own ancestor, Dullewa Maha Adikaram, had been a signatory of the 1815 Kandyan Convention, which ensured that, through a treaty ceding our sovereignty to the British, we retained a panoply of rights and freedoms. Indeed the date of Gopallawa's swearing-in ceremony - the second of March 1962 -was the anniversary of the signature of the Kandyan Convention 146 years earlier. Matale was also a venue of Keppetipola's rebellion of 1818 and later of Pur an Appu's uprising of 1848. It was to Matale that Gopallawa returned to spend the last years of his life after the creation of the Executive Presidency in 1978 until his death in 1981 at the age of 84.
Today, as we work in Parliament and in the country at large towards fulfilling the mandate of abolishing the Executive Presidency we can do no better than ensure that the new Head of State selected under a future Constitution is of the same calibre as Gopallawa - deeply imbued in the history and cultural traditions of our country; wisely tolerant and deeply understanding of its diversity; firmly entrenched in the values and principles of a genuinely participatory democracy ensuring the full flowering of human rights and civil society and guided at all times by the supreme national interest that is permanent, durable and broad-based and not by sectarian or partisan interpretations of national interest that are ephemeral, self-serving and ultimately self-destructive of our society and our nation.
As a Head of State epitomizing national values Gopallawa was an untainted symbol of national unity and harmony amongst all groups ethnic, religious, political, social and economic. He also rejected all forms of political violence as a Buddhist and a man of peace. Never has our country been in greater need of the national unity and peace that William Gopallawa symbolized.
Madam Prime Minister, Mr. Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me now proceed to the main segment of my presentation this evening. It is customary in memorial lectures in Sri Lanka - after the speaker clears the obstacle course of getting there! - to address issues connected with the life of the individual being commemorated. Gopallawa's life spanned many fields and despite the temptation to enter the lively domestic debate on the state of our nation, Constitutional reform, good governance and such other issues of national concern, my recent experience - and indeed the instinct of self-preservation – has veered me towards the less controversial field of international affairs bearing in mind the diplomatic facet of Gopallawa's career as Ambassador of Sri Lanka to China from 1957 to 61and our Ambassador in the USA from 1961-62.
In my own diplomatic career I have been privileged to witness the major transformation in global politics from the Cold War's confrontation and tension to the present, as yet transitional era, which can best be described as unipolar in the politico-military sense but multipolar in the politico economic dimension. But other transformations have taken place that continue to shape and mould our global society - a society that has expanded vastly in this century not only with the emergence of so many new countries following the dramatic process of decolonisation, the implosion of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and the collapse of authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe; but also because of the profusion of non-state actors in the international scene today; the increasing importance of non-military causes for insecurity and conflict; the assertion of an international civil society independent of state control; the complex interaction of different sectors in society and the tremendous acceleration of the pace of technological change especially in the communications sector.
The temptation to encapsulate the grand sweep of human history within well-defined theories or cyclical constructs has existed for a long time. One does not however need to venture into the deeper profundities of an Arnold Toynbee or adopt the pessimistic posture of declinist theorists like Oswald Spengler to forecast that the centre of gravity of international relations is, slowly but surely, moving from the West towards the Asian-Pacific region. In the expanded international community of the modern age following the cumulative impact of historical processes like the geographical discoveries and the Industrial Revolution that center of gravity was decisively placed in Europe in the 19th century as post-Napoleonic Europe attempted to order its own affairs while its imperial sway over most of the world continued. In this century the emergence of the United States as the most dynamic player in the international scene began to be evident in the First World War but was well established by the time of Yalta and Potsdam. As this century draws to a close there are already clear signs that the Asian-Pacific region is the fastest growing segment of the global economy. This region encompassing as it does the world's biggest economy and mightiest power the USA, as well as Japan and China, also includes the so-called East Asian "Tiger" economies - products of the East Asian miracle which, the current problems of the Thai economy notwithstanding, is likely to continue well into the 21st century. A new category of "tiger"
economies such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia are also poised to enter a period of rapid economic growth. The formation of APEC heralded the self-recognition in the region of its combined importance as a locus of economic power, which is being steadily translated into political terms. The presence of both China and the US in this regional forum augurs well for the future.
It is in this geo-political context of the emergence of the Pacific Basin as the fulcrum of global power in the 21 st century that we must now look closely at the Sino-US relationship. In my view the stable management of this bilateral relationship will be a defining aspect of security for the region and for global affairs in the decades to come. In the near term it will be of crucial import beginning with the proposed October 1997 visit of President Jiang Zemin to Washington - the first formal summit meeting between these two powers for nearly a decade. In the present global system the USA is very much the dominant power who helped to create the status quo while China is the upwardly mobile new power. The challenge for the USA as the sole super-power is to integrate China into the global system ensuring at the same time that the respective national interests of the USA and China do not collide but can be harmonized in the interests of global peace and stability. The fundamental importance of this bilateral relationship to the world in general, but especially to smaller Asian countries like Sri Lanka in particular, is obvious. The danger of the two Asian giants - China and India -being locked in permanent hostility creating a tension laden regional context is happily behind us. The threat of a Sino-US confrontation could be far worse with its global ramifications in the political and economic spheres. It is vital therefore for all countries to bend their diplomatic efforts to ensure that Sino-US relations do in fact proceed along a co-operative trajectory.
My focus on USA and China does not in any way detract from the importance of other regions and countries and their role in the global system. India in particular is of unmistakable importance to Sri Lanka and the world. However given the relative levels of development in the various countries, their military power and political influence and their capacity to project this power and influence beyond their boundaries there is no doubt that the US - China relationship stands out in the global situation as the pre-eminent bilateral relationship that could make or mar global peace and security. It will, undoubtedly, be influenced by the relations which both countries will have with other powers especially China's relations with Japan and other regional states.
The national interests of countries do not always converge conveniently. History, geography, economic interests and a variety of other factors can dictate the direction of national interest. The USA and China are both huge countries of over 9 million square kilometers each but with population sizes that are very different - the USA with about 262 million and China with 1.2 billion. The World Bank's World Development Report of 1996 stated that, in term of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), the US economy of$ 6744 billion is the world's largest while China's economy of $ 2989 billion is the second largest ahead of Japan, Germany and India. The latest UNDP Human Development Report provides an interesting comparison in human development indicators. Beginning with the obvious hiatus in real GDP per capita in the USA at $ 26,397 to China's $ 2604 (i.e. approximately one-tenth the US figure), life expectancy is 76.2 years in the US to 68.9 in China; adult literacy is 99% in the US to 80.9 in China; television sets per 100 persons in the US was 78 and in China 23. These figures illustrate a narrower gap between the two countries in human development terms than the GDP indicator would imply. The actual Human Development Index for the USA is 0.942 ranking fourth in the world and for China it is 0.626 ranking 108th (For purposes of comparison India is 0.457 ranking 138th and Sri Lanka is at 0.711 ranking 91st.) The point of the comparison is to demonstrate the enormous success recorded by China in the recent past in reducing poverty and reaching a point of economic take-off necessary to sustain such a huge population. While the relative political importance and economic strength of these two nuclear weapon states and permanent members of the UN Security Council is undoubtedly an important factor,
their own bilateral relationship inter se and their importance to each other will largely determine the course of their future relationship.
Both countries have distinct images of themselves. Sinologists have sometimes belaboured the point that the Chinese name for China Zhong-guo - literally means "Middle" or "Central Kingdom" signifying a hub around which all else revolves. This worldview inherited from ancient times is reinforced by the fact that all China's cultural, scientific and technological innovations and achievements were largely developed in isolation within Chinese boundaries. The development thus of a strong and cohesive sense of Chinese nationalism that bristled under the so called "century of shame" lasting roughly from the mid - 19th century to the mid - 20th century and characterized by foreign invasion, occupation, war and national humiliation, is understandable. Mao Zedong said on 1 October 1949 at Tian An Men square that" China has stood up " signifying that the sleeping giant had woken up and would begin, under its own sovereign leadership and by its own efforts, to modernize itself and attain its rightful place in the international community. That China has done so in less than five decades is undisputed. In doing so China has gone through disastrous internal conflict during the Cultural Revolution and pursued mistaken economic policies like the Great Leap Forward. These self-imposed obstacles have only made China's leaders more determined to make up for lost time by adopting pragmatic economic policies.
With the USA, a new nation of a little over 200 years, greatly energized by the waves of immigrants from war-torn Europe and other parts of the world we have a self-image of a confident and dynamic nation conscious of the success of its political and economic system, its global leadership and also of its technological superiority. A rugged individualism born of the frontier days and a fear of "Big Government" invading their freedom and privacy remain traits of the American people. A strand of isolationism also runs through the American psyche in a withdrawal syndrome shying away from other people's troubles but ready at moments to intervene. The USA's undisputed dominance today can only end if the economy falters or the pace of its technological change is overtaken by other countries or regions. Neither of these developments is likely to take place in the short term. The notion of American "exceptionalism" or the uniqueness of the USA as a nation-state is matched by that of China's.
US interest in China dates back to the last century through trade and missionary activity. In fact many of the famous Sinologists of recent years in the US were born in China where their parents worked as missionaries. As part of the Reform Movement in the early part of this
century Chinese leaders visited the USA while students came to US universities for their education. In 1908 the US Congress decided to use about half of the US share of the Boxer indemnity for the education of Chinese scholars in American universities - a precursor of the now famous Fulbright Scholarship programme. By 1925 about a thousand young Chinese had benefited from the programme and on their return they formed the new leadership. The Rockefeller Foundation began to fund higher education in China and gave about $ 34 million to set up the Peking Union Medical College. This important link with China led both to a romanticisation of China by Americans and also an exaggerated sense of loss when the Communist Revolution succeeded in 1949 and more especially when the Korean War drew the Chinese to fight against the US. Edgar Snow, a US journalist, was a key conduit of reports on Mao's revolutionaries and for a while the Chinese Revolution was portrayed as a peasant rebellion. A generation of US experts on China was victimized during the McCarthy trials as many were purged during that bizarre period of extremist witch-hunting in US politics.
The Korean War certainly exacerbated relations between the two countries although there is some evidence that it was Moscow that drew China into the war especially after the Yalu River was crossed in order to defend her borders. Hostility between the two countries congealed and despite the unofficial dialogue established in Warsaw by their Governments the US and China remained aloof. Not even the Sino Soviet rift convinced the US that China had its own national interests to pursue which were quite distinct from those of the USSR at the time. The US led opposition to China regaining her seat in the UN was an additional irritant. Finally it took the bold and historic decision of President Nixon to break the stalemate sending Kissinger on his secret mission to Beijing to prepare for the US President's visit in 1972. The Shanghai Communique signed during that visit established the basis of the relationship beginning at a level short of Embassy status but later expanding to full diplomatic relations. A gradual broadening of the relationship has taken place over the last 25 years since the Nixon visit especially in the economic area. But problems and tensions remain usually centering around four main issues:
. Human rights
. weapon proliferation
. And Taiwan.
With the end of the USSR a greatly weakened Russia no longer poses a threat to the US and her allies. China however is being regarded as a potential threat by some who point to China's defence expenditure (which US sources put at between $ 45-55 billion over the past ten years or so) and her growing appetite for oil, food and other resources leading possibly to fierce competition in global markets in future. Others see unique opportunities to forge a cooperative relationship with China.
It is useful to analyze the components of the Sino-US relationship in order to examine the potential for co-operation and conflict. The burgeoning of the Sino-US trade relationship has been a dramatic feature in recent years. The 1995 trade figures showed the US importing US $ 48.5 billion from China alone while US exports to China totalled $ 11.7 billion. The US trade deficit with China is soon likely to replace the US Japan trade imbalance as a major foreign policy issue and has already caused some friction in the relationship. In addition there is the vexed question of respect for intellectual property laws in China. For the moment US companies are enjoying the China boom although visions of selling refrigerators and cars to every Chinese in a population of 1.2 billion are fast fading partly because of competition from other countries as well as newly fuelled fears of the enormous environmental costs of this. For the immediate future the Chinese market will continue to have a fascination for the US exporter and investor and will function as a major lever for a cooperative relationship with China. The current Administration in Washington has been particularly keen to promote this component of Sino-US ties going to the extent of de-linking the renewal of China's MFN status from the country's human rights record. This China would welcome in a pragmatic realization of the need to continue with economic consolidation. China's foreign trade in 1995 was $ 280 billion i.e.56 % of her GNP in comparison to the 1978 figure of $ 21 billion when it was 14% of the GNP. China's involvement with the global economy is illustrated by the more than 250,000 joint venture projects in China and its own foreign direct investment of $ 16 billion. Belonging to a number of multilateral organizations in the economic area China's external assets of over $100 billion is one of the highest. Thus globalization may well attenuate political differences. However the continued exclusion of China from the World Trading Organization (WTO) shuts this major economic power out of an important decision making body in global trade and this will have to be rectified soon.
Human rights represent one of the most likely pitfalls in the Sino-US relationship. China's quick support of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir's call for a redrafting of the UN Declaration on Human Rights signifies the perception that in the application of human rights norms China is forced to be on the defensive against the West. A framework for a cooperative relationship between the US and China cannot avoid the human rights issue. The political system prevailing in China despite the liberalization achieved in the economic system remains authoritarian. The Communist Party remains in control and its Congress, which began on 12 September, is unlikely to make dramatic changes ushering in democracy but will seek to solidify the grip of Jiang Zemin and his supporters on power. However change is inevitable. A comparison with Europe in the 19th century is useful. Autocratic regimes prevailed in many countries concentrating political power with monarchs or aristocracies. Soon the economic power gathered by the rising middle class of entrepreneurs was able to make inroads. In Britain a series of Reform Acts led to a broader based Parliament and eventually representative democracy. In China the same process must inevitably follow the economic reforms if we are not to have a series of bloody Tian An Men square incidents. This is the central contradiction, in the classic Maoist sense, of the Chinese system - the tension between economic liberalism and political authoritarianism. There are signs of incipient minority problems such as in Sinkiang, which could be exploited by China's critics. Perhaps global human rights norms may be adjusted to include the economic rights developing countries emphasize. Human rights norms in their present form will continue to be a feature of the foreign policy of the US and other Western countries and the application of them to China will therefore remain a problem. In this context China could emerge as a champion of the causes of the developing South or the Non-aligned Movement in an intensified North vs. South dispute over universal norms and the equitable sharing of global resources.
On security issues China's accession to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 1992joining the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993 and her signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996 are examples of China's willingness to co-operate with the other four nuclear weapon states in curbing nuclear proliferation. Despite remaining outside control and supplier regimes such as the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Chinese appear to want to observe the spirit of these regimes except in the case of some countries where traditional ties have existed. China's weapon sales to certain countries are a matter of controversy especially in the US Congress. There is thus a mix of China behaving as a "status quo" power in some instances and challenging the system in others. In the security area China alone stands for "no first use" of nuclear weapons but hesitates to announce a plan for its own nuclear disarmament until the US and Russia bring down their levels of nuclear weapons to around Chinese levels. At the same time China ranks much lower in the volume of its arms exports in comparison with the US, Russia, Britain, Germany and France who together accounted for 87% of arms deliveries in 1996 according to the latest Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) yearbook. In its approach to the North Korean nuclear problem China displayed great maturity in influencing Pyongyang to accept the arrangements which kept North Korea within the NPT. China's important participation in the proposed "Four party" talks with the US, South Korea and North Korea represents another helpful security related measure. The US experience in these negotiations provided an insight into China's responsible role as a great power – a role that can be played in other situations provided a similar coincidence of national interest can be identified. The enlargement of NATO on the other hand is a development causing deep disquiet in China over US intentions.
Taiwan is acknowledged by both sides to be the most difficult problem in the Sino-US relationship. The Taiwan Relations Act of the US ensures US guarantees of Taiwan's freedom and stability despite the clear position of China that Taiwan is an integral part of China. Any attempt to take Taiwan by force will result in a major confrontation. Unlike in the case of Hong Kong the prospect of a negotiated solution is far more problematic. The Taiwan lobby in the US is rich and powerful and will continue to use the US political system especially through Congress to press its claims. This sophisticated lobbying is not as easily neutralized by China as the persistent efforts in the UN to seek a seat for Taiwan. Arms sales to Taiwan by the US continue to be an irksome area. It is vitally important for both countries to be vigilant over provocations and attempts to create incidents that could trigger a conflict over the Taiwan issue. Both China and the US have a strong mutual interest in managing this problem towards a peaceful resolution. It will not be easy and creative diplomacy will be required on all sides.
China's admirable record of integrating itself into the global system, acceding to international treaties and working constructively within international organizations has not prevented her from asserting her sovereignty and special claims. Thus like Taiwan the subject of Tibet is another area where China rejects external interference. The protection of China's telecommunications industry from foreign investment is another example of China's jealous safeguarding of her sovereignty and acute sensitivity over foreign interference in her internal affairs. The Chinese leadership will have to take decisions on the extent to which China will integrate itself in the global system. It will not be pressured into doing so. Greater encouragement of this process of integration demonstrating the tangible benefits involved will help to assuage the fears now entertained. In the transformation caused by the liberalization of the Chinese economy a greater degree of independence has come to be enjoyed not only by the private sector but also by the state trading organizations. Consequently policy controls have been difficult to ensure such as for example in the arms exports area resulting in major foreign policy problems for China - not very different from Germany's problems over nuclear exports by her companies. In other areas like intellectual property rights there are competing interests operating which again makes policy implementation very complex. These problems are not always understood by the US.
Within China a number of variables can determine the future course of her relations with the US. The need to consolidate the rule of law is one. Another is the need to maintain internal stability by avoiding another convulsive Cultural Revolution and damaging leadership struggles. For this visionary and astute leadership is required .On the economic front the unevenness of China's regional development could itself be the cause of political instability. The policy debate within the US on its approach to China was especially sharp this year because of the 25th anniversary of the Nixon visit and the Shanghai Communiqué. Some have argued for a policy of "containment" asserting that China is an aggressive power that is biding her time. Others prefer the present Administration's policy of engagement. The policy of containment is supported by the thesis propounded by Samuel Huntington of Harvard in his book "The Clash of Civilizations" which sees future wars being fought along fault lines dividing the world into different civilizations.
A crucial factor in the evolving relations between China and the US is that unlike in the former USSR-US Cold War there is little ideology here although right-wing anti- Communist elements in the US and chauvinistic Chinese sentiments exist. The competition between the two systems in the US and former USSR even after de-Stalinisation was intense. There is no evident attempt on the part of China to " export revolution" in contrast to the past when, for example, Chou-en-Lai announced that Africa was "ripe for revolution". China has moderated its ideology going to great lengths to explain its economic reform as being a socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics. The propaganda against the US also appears only in relation to specific incidents such as an US-sponsored resolution against China's human rights and is not a sustained campaign. Expatriate Chinese communities through their heavy investments in China have helped fuel economic growth. They have also helped to moderate China's political stances vis-a-vis the US and Western countries through their insights of these countries where they are resident. The economic reforms have also had the result of bringing the US and China together over a large area. A generational change has also been evident following the economic reforms in China. The value systems of the young disseminated and reinforced by the mass media are a world apart from the Red Guards of the 1960s. There is among the policy elite a firm determination to avoid the mistakes that led to the collapse of the USSR. China's attainment of national unity and self respect in 1949 reinforced by the recent return of Hong Kong is too precious to be risked. No Chinese wants a return to the chaos, ignominy and exploitation of the past.
There will, inevitably, be both predictable and unpredictable challenges that will confront China and the USA. The two scenarios I have cited in the title of this address are Cold War and Cohabitation. The world has not emerged from one Cold War to risk entering another especially between China and the US, which will be far more harmful in its consequences especially to Asian countries. The political and military strains it will impose on a world forced to take sides would be unimaginable and the economic consequences disastrous. An arms race especially in the nuclear field will undo all the benefits we have seen and will turn back the clock. Cohabitation is a word I have preferred over the more common expression of peaceful co-existence taken from the Pancha -shila between India and China. Cohabitation identified with the pragmatic adaptation of two opposing parties in France to ensure smooth progress is also the way forward for China and the US to make mutual accommodation and adjustment.
Two other scenarios are also possible apart from many others. A confrontation leading to military conflict is one .A pre-emptive strike can be launched on China in a crisis situation or China led by an aggressive leadership could provoke a clash, which could escalate. A mis-handling of the Taiwan issue is most likely to be the cause of this. The other scenario is a condominium of the world by China and the US, which other powers would resent. Neither of these scenarios have a viable basis in today's situation for us to project them into the future with any degree of realism. Differences will continue to exist between China and the US based on their different worldviews and the pursuit of their national interest. The capacity of the leadership to manage these differences will be of paramount importance in the years to come. The co-operation of both countries is vital in achieving the global agenda of sustainable human development in a peaceful and stable world.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations in his recent report on a programme of reform for the UN has stated, and I quote, " The history of the twentieth century demonstrates decisively the utility of multilateralism. . . That same history also shows that orders of international relations based solely on the projection of power, uninformed and unrestrained by a shared sense of universal principles, rights and legitimacy, establish no lasting roots. They endure no longer than the asymmetries in material capabilities that gave rise to and sustained them". We must therefore move from old concepts of power into a co-operative security system encouraging multi polarity and multilateralism to ensure that power rivalries among and between great powers no longer imperil global peace and prosperity in which all nations have a vital stake.