A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

President Discusses Freedom and Democracy in Kyoto, Japan

Some interesting excerpts:

I have experienced this transformation of your country in a highly personal way. During World War II, my father and a Japanese official named Junya Koizumi were on opposite sides of a terrible war. Today, their sons serve as elected leaders of their respected nations. Prime Minister Koizumi is one of my best friends in the international community. We have met many times during my presidency. I know the Prime Minister well. I trust his judgment. I admire his leadership. And America is proud to have him as an ally in the cause of peace and freedom.

The relationship between our countries is much bigger than the friendship between a President and a prime minister. It is an equal partnership based on common values, common interests, and a common commitment to freedom. Freedom has made our two democracies close allies. Freedom is the basis of our growing ties to other nations in the region. And in the 21st century, freedom is the destiny of every man, woman, and child from New Zealand to the Korean Peninsula.

Freedom is the bedrock of our friendship with Japan. At the beginning of World War II, this side of the Pacific had only two democracies: Australia and New Zealand. And at the end of World War II, some did not believe that democracy would work in your country. Fortunately, American leaders like President Harry Truman did not listen to the skeptics -- and the Japanese people proved the skeptics wrong by embracing elections and democracy.

As you embraced democracy, you adapted it to your own needs and your own circumstances. So Japanese democracy is different from American democracy. You have a prime minister -- not a president. Your constitution allows for a monarchy that is a source of national pride. Japan is a good example of how a free society can reflect a country's unique culture and history -- while guaranteeing the universal freedoms that are the foundation of all genuine democracies.
This is what is happening in Iraq. We haven't set out to recreate Iraq in the image and likeness of the United States, but to help them create a free, democratic society, where people have liberty.


And so the advance of freedom in Asia has been one of the greatest stories in human history -- and in the young century now before us we will add to that story. Millions in this region now live in thriving democracies, others have just started down the road of liberty, and the few nations whose leaders have refused to take even the first steps to freedom are finding themselves out of step with their neighbors and isolated from the world. Even in these lonely places, the desire for freedom lives -- and one day freedom will reach their shores as well.

Some Asian nations have already built free and open societies. And one of the most dramatic examples is the Republic of Korea -- our host for the APEC Summit. Like many in this part of the world, the South Koreans were for years led by governments that closed their door to political reform but gradually opened up to the global economy. By embracing freedom in the economic realm, South Korea transformed itself into an industrial power at home -- and a trading power abroad.

As South Korea began opening itself up to world markets, it found that economic freedom fed the just demands of its citizens for greater political freedom. The economic wealth that South Korea created at home helped nurture a thriving middle class that eventually demanded free elections and a democratic government that would be accountable to the people. We admire the struggle the South Korean people made to achieve their democratic freedom -- and the modern nation they have built with that freedom. South Korea is now one of the world's most successful economies and one of Asia's most successful democracies. It is also showing leadership in the world, by helping others who are claiming their own freedom. At this hour Korean forces make up the third largest contingent in the multi-national force in Iraq -- and by helping the Iraqis build a free society in the heart of the Middle East, South Korea is contributing to a more peaceful and hopeful world.

Taiwan is another society that has moved from repression to democracy as it liberalized its economy. Like South Korea, the people of Taiwan for years lived under a restrictive political state that gradually opened up its economy. And like South Korea, the opening to world markets transformed the island into one of the world's most important trading partners. And like South Korea, economic liberalization in Taiwan helped fuel its desire for individual political freedom -- because men and women who are allowed to control their own wealth will eventually insist on controlling their own lives and their own future.
Other Asian societies have taken some steps toward freedom -- but they have not yet completed the journey. When my father served as the head of our nation's diplomatic mission in Beijing thirty years ago, an isolated China was recovering from the turmoil unleashed by the cultural revolution. In the late 1970s, China's leaders took a hard look at their country, and they resolved to change. They opened the door to economic development -- and today the Chinese people are better fed, better housed, and enjoy better opportunities than they ever have had in their history.

As China reforms its economy, its leaders are finding that once the door to freedom is opened even a crack, it can not be closed. As the people of China grow in prosperity, their demands for political freedom will grow as well. President Hu has explained to me his vision of "peaceful development," and he wants his people to be more prosperous. I have pointed out that the people of China want more freedom to express themselves, to worship without state control, to print Bibles and other sacred texts without fear of punishment. The efforts of Chinese people to -- China's people to improve their society should be welcomed as part of China's development. By meeting the legitimate demands of its citizens for freedom and openness, China's leaders can help their country grow into a modern, prosperous, and confident nation.
Unlike China, some Asian nations still have not taken even the first steps toward freedom. These regimes understand that economic liberty and political liberty go hand in hand, and they refuse to open up at all. The ruling parties in these countries have managed to hold onto power. The price of their refusal to open up is isolation, backwardness, and brutality. By closing the door to freedom, they create misery at home and sow instability abroad. These nations represent Asia's past, not its future.
And finally:

In our lifetimes, we have already been given a glimpse of this bright future. The advance of freedom and prosperity across the Asian continent has set a hopeful example for all in the world. And though the democracies that have taken root in Asia are new, the dreams they express are ancient. Thousands of years before Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln, a Chinese poet wrote that, "the people should be cherished the people are the root of a country the root firm, the country is tranquil." Today the people of Asia have made their desire for freedom clear -- and that their countries will only be tranquil when they are led by governments of, by, and for the people.

In the 21st century, freedom is an Asian value -- because it is a universal value. It is freedom that enables the citizens of Asia to live lives of dignity. It is freedom that has unleashed the creative talents of the Asian people. It is freedom that gives the citizens of this continent confidence in the future of peace for their children and grandchildren. And in the work that lies ahead, the people of this region can know: You have a partner in the American government -- and a friend in the American people.