KYOTO, Japan – President Bush prodded China today to grant more political freedom to its 1.3 billion people and held up archrival Taiwan as a society that successfully moved from repression to democracy as it opened its economy.
In remarks sure to rile Beijing, Bush suggested China should follow Taiwan’s path.
“Modern Taiwan is free and democratic and prosperous. By embracing freedom at all levels, Taiwan has delivered prosperity to its people and created a free and democratic Chinese society,” the president said.
Bush made his remarks in the advance text of a speech that was to be the cornerstone address of his Asian trip. From Japan, he will continue to South Korea, China and Mongolia.
At a state guest house, Bush met with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, an unflinching ally despite the president’s record-low popularity and mounting problems at home. The president called Koizumi his “buddy.”
Koizumi supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and made an unpopular decision to send noncombat troops there in January 2004. That mission expires next month; Bush has indicated he wouldn’t press his friend for a decision on whether to extend it.
In his prepared speech, Bush said that China’s economic growth must be accompanied by more freedoms for its people.
“As China reforms its economy,” the president said, “its leaders are finding that once the door to freedom is opened even a crack, it cannot be closed. As the people of China grow in prosperity, their demands for political freedom will grow as well.”
Bush also lectured China about opening its economy to foreign competition to narrow the expected $200 billion trade surplus with the United States.