President Bush Discusses China Memories

January 16, 2009

President Bush on stageIn October, Bush School students, faculty, and staff had the unique opportunity to talk with President George H. W. Bush in an informal town hall setting. The focus of the meeting was the recent publication of The China Diary of George H.W. Bush: The Making of a Global President, edited by Bush School professor Dr. Jeffrey Engel. Dean Chilcoat opened the meeting and Dr. Engel served as moderator.

Four students from the international affairs program depicted a clear picture of life in China during the 1970s when George H.W. Bush served as chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China, each recapping a portion of the book they found particularly interesting and asking questions related to a particular topic. They asked the president to compare China in 1975 to its current status, and what he saw as the most drastic change that has taken place since then. They also were interested in his most vivid memory of China, and his experience as a diplomat in China at that time.

Both President Bush and Mrs. Bush responded candidly to the students’ questions, recalled personal memories of the transition after the Cultural Revolution, and spoke about the insights they gained while in China.  Bush said his only regret was that he never met Mao Zedong. He also explained that while he understood the limits on his diplomatic role, he nonetheless felt he had done his best to get to know the Chinese people and start building bonds between the two nations.

In response to a question about whether the president believed that China’s rising truly was “peaceful,” Barbara Bush replied that with its growth and developing economy “China’s the future,” to which Mr. Bush agreed, saying that the U.S. should be involved with China to ensure its rising is peaceful. The president made clear his admiration and respect for the Chinese people and his firm belief that the U.S. should continue strong relations with them. To that effect, he encouraged all the students to visit China if they were ever given the opportunity.

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