Chinese President Jiang Zemin Rings Bell at New York Stock Exchange at Start of Full-Day of
Chinese President Jiang Zemin Rings Bell at New York Stock Exchange at Start of Full-Day of Visits To American Capitalism’s MonumentsBy TED ANTHONY
NEW YORK (AP) _ China’s visiting president glimpsed the chaos and opportunities of capitalism this morning, rubbing shoulders with business leaders, attracting Tibetan independence protests and ringing the New York Stock Exchange’s opening bell.
Jiang Zemin rang the bell at 9:30 a.m., then grinned broadly and shouted to the traders on the floor 20 feet below, ``Good morning! I wish you good trading!″
Jiang, on an eight-day U.S. tour, had breakfast with former President Bush at the Waldorf-Astoria, then visited Wall Street and IBM’s Manhattan offices.
At the stock exchange, chairman Richard A. Grasso took Jiang’s arm after trading began and escorted him through the pit. Jiang seemed delighted, but a little taken aback by the hubbub. Traders, facing one of the most hectic weeks in years, took little notice.
Ford Motor Co. chief Alex Trotman, among several business leaders present, called Jiang’s walk through the pit important.
``It’s a very symbolic day today,″ he said. ``For him to come here and see this, it can only help improve relations.″
Later, Jiang presented Grasso with a jade statue of a flying horse and said in English, ``I hope that your market will be as vibrant as a flying horse.″
Outside the exchange, several groups, including Amnesty International and Tibetan independence activists, protested. About 200 demonstrators pressed against police barricades, chanting ``China out of Tibet!″ and carrying signs reading ``China Heroin,″ ``Support Taiwan Independence″ and ``Free Tibet, Please.″ At IBM, Chinese and American flags were unfurled as company chairman Louis V. Gerstner Jr. greeted Jiang.
Gerstner noted that IBM employs more than 1,500 people in major Chinese cities, and he predicted that new technology would dissolve barriers between the nations.
``Today, we are on the verge of the ultimate impact of computer technology,″ Gerstner told Jiang as the two sat side-by-side in a company boardroom.
Greeted by protests in Washington and Philadelphia earlier in the week, Jiang concluded his visit to the U.S. capital by acknowledging that relations with the United States have been marked with both friction and harmony.
Jiang and Bush exchanged pleasantries and smiled broadly for photographers before their breakfast, with Bush telling him, ``You look good.″ But New York’s top politicians steered clear of the visit.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has ``grave concerns about China’s human rights policies,″ his spokeswoman Colleen Roche said. The snubs aren’t new: Virginia Gov. George Allen earlier backed out of a meeting with Jiang.
Business leaders, however, aren’t staying away.
While some critics blame China’s leaders for creating an atmosphere of repression, American business leaders say engaging China works better than isolating it. They say free-market forces have encouraged social reform.
``The system has loosened substantially,″ said Richard Brecher, vice president of the nonprofit U.S.-China Business Council, which sponsored a banquet tonight for Jiang and leaders of China-friendly businesses.
``Many see the rise in dissident voices as a product of rapid economic growth and economic reform,″ Brecher said.
Jiang’s contacts with U.S. business leaders can only help that process. And make no mistake _ he’s already met plenty of them, including executives from General Motors Corp. to Time Warner Inc. at a dinner Wednesday in Washington.
One issue, though, has proven pernicious during his scheduled eight-day visit: the June 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, where perhaps hundreds or even thousands of civilians died.
Jiang, then the mayor of Shanghai, peacefully defused pro-democracy movements before he was brought to Beijing. But he’s been confronted with questions about human rights virtually since he arrived in America.
Jiang, who has visited such cradles of democracy as colonial Williamsburg, Va., and Independence Hall in Philadelphia, stood by President Clinton this week and called the results at Tiananmen Square a ``correct conclusion.″
China often has complained that the U.S. government’s linking of trade privileges to human rights _ and even mere public discussion here of China’s social policies _ infringes upon Chinese internal affairs.
Jiang on Thursday was steadfast in his defense of Chinese policies.
Winding up a two-day visit to Washington, Jiang told members of Congress the Chinese people ``have enjoyed a much better life, and it has intensified efforts to improve democracy and the legal system″ since China opened itself to the world in the 1970s. He said the giant nation had improved human rights and ended slavery in Tibet, where people were ``living and working in happiness and contentment.″
Addressing American trade concerns, Jiang pledged to ``open China still wider to the outside world.″
Though the Chinese often consider public criticism a serious loss of face, Jiang parried blunt questions from lawmakers with style, even speaking English occasionally _ something he has been loath to do.
It is the first state visit by a Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping’s U.S. tour in 1985. Jiang visited New York in 1995 for the United Nations’ 50th anniversary celebrations.
Jiang is scheduled to visit Boston and Los Angeles on Saturday before returning to Beijing on Sunday.