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The Relationship Between the U.S. and China.

Journalist Patrick Tyler is a correspondent for the New York Times, based in Moscow. Previously he was the Beijing Bureau Chief for the paper. He's written a new book about 30 years of U.S./China relations: "A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China: In Investigative History." (A Century Foundation Book)


Other segments from the episode on September 23, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 23, 1999: Interview with Patrick Tyler; Commentary on George C. Scott.


Date: SEPTEMBER 23, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 092301np.217
Head: Patrick Tyler: 30 Years of U.S./China Relations
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: From WHYY in Philadelphia, I'm Terry Gross with FRESH AIR.

It's a tense time for U.S.-China relations. Yesterday the FBI broadened its investigation into the possibility that China stole nuclear weapons secrets from the U.S. In May NATO accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. On today's FRESH AIR, we take a look at U.S.-China relations with journalist Patrick Tyler, former Beijing bureau chief for "The New York Times" and author of "A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, an Investigative History." It's based in part on thousands of pages of recently declassified documents.

That's all coming up on FRESH AIR.

First the news.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The FBI is broadening its investigation into evidence that the Chinese stole secrets about nuclear weapons from the U.S. My guest, Patrick Tyler, has spent the past four years studying the relationship between the U.S. and China, examining thousands of pages of newly declassified documents. His new book is called "A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, an Investigative History."

Tyler is "The New York Times" former Beijing bureau chief. He's now preparing for his next assignment in Moscow. Tyler says his book suggests that almost every issue concerning China and its relations with the U.S. is up in the air, including whether China will promote peace and stability or build up its military in order to dominate Asia and undermine American influence in the region. Another question behind Tyler's book is whether China will force Taiwan into reunification on Beijing's terms. Taiwan is now dealing with the damage of this week's enormous earthquake.

At the beginning of your book, you write "America is busily preparing Taiwan for war with mainland China." And I thought, "We are?"

PATRICK TYLER, JOURNALIST: I think most Americans don't understand the extent to which the United States is still very much committed to the defense and the security of Taiwan through the Taiwan Relations Act, which was passed right after we normalized and established diplomatic relations with China in 1979. And under that act, we're committed to react and to arm Taiwan and defend Taiwan against any act of coercion, military coercion or even blockade -- that word is specifically in the act.

And beyond that, we've been selling arms to Taiwan to a fare-thee-well, to the point where now Taiwan is the second largest recipient of international arms sales after Saudi Arabia. And we know how much arms Saudi Arabia buys over the years. So it is a process that is ongoing and invisible, Terry, to most Americans because so much of the arms-sale relationship is classified secret in the U.S. government.

GROSS: And you don't think it should be.

TYLER: No. I think the more transparency the better, because every Chinese and every American has a stake in this relationship and preventing any miscalculation or accident that could lead to a military confrontation.

GROSS: Well, how strong do you think the risk of war is between China and Taiwan?

TYLER: Well, you know, you can get criticized, whether you overstate it or understate it. What I was trying to do in this book, aside from writing a narrative history that would make this history accessible to a lot of readers, is simply sound a warning that since the -- since that crisis in 1995 and '96, when the Chinese started firing missiles out over the Taiwan Strait toward Taiwan's ports, that there is a great deal of military planning going on, and the issue has kind of been militarized.

And the political dialogue, the trend of diplomacy and political dialogue, is declining, whereas the trend toward military planning and military contingencies is increasing. And that wasn't the case in the first two decades of this relationship, and it's dangerous. It's dangerous in any relationship.

GROSS: Explain what the fighting would be about, if it did come to that?

TYLER: It's simply over the status of Taiwan. I mean, the reality is, in 1949 the communist revolution pushed the Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-shek off of the mainland. It took exile on Taiwan. And America was their great ally and supporter. And for the next two decades, there was a fiction that somehow all of China was represented by Chiang Kai-shek, who was living down there on Taiwan. And the issue is over, really, the Chinese -- the resolution, the final resolution of the Chinese civil war, who won, and where does Taiwan belong.

Now, of course, Taiwan has always been the master of its own political destiny during all of these decades, but its sovereign status has never been -- has never been sorted out. To the United Nations, there is only one China. In the United States, there is only one China, and Taiwan is part of it. But the reality is, is that there are two political entities, the mainland and the estranged province that is the -- you know, the hangover from the Chinese civil war.

GROSS: Does China seem to be arming itself for war with Taiwan?

TYLER: Military preparations, as I said, is going on on both sides of the Strait. We and other countries are selling a lot of arms to Taiwan, and on the Chinese mainland, the People's Liberation Army is trying to modernize that portion of its forces which would be involved in any kind of regional military conflict along its borders, including in the Taiwan Strait.

They're looking for weapons that would keep our aircraft carriers away, to keep America out of the fight. They're looking at weapons like these missiles that could shut down effectively Taiwan's economy and bring the island to a standstill and therefore make it subject to a lot of political leverage from the mainland.

GROSS: What do you think the United States' role would be? What position would it be in if Taiwan and China went to war?

TYLER: I think that we have no choice but to try and maintain peace, and that's going to mean living up to the commitments of the Taiwan Relations Act, and that's -- that's why I was trying to sound a bit of a warning with this book. The act requires us, and Congress will -- where Taiwan has many friends, will certainly stand up and demand that any administration protect Taiwan from military coercion.

And so I think we get dragged into it almost whether we're trying or whether we're not trying, Terry. We could have excellent relations with both the mainland and Taiwan over the next 15 years and still get dragged into a military conflict if one or the other sides decides to start it.

GROSS: My guest is Patrick Tyler. He's the author of the new book "A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, an Investigative History." He's the former "New York Times" Beijing bureau chief and will soon be reporting from Moscow.

It seems that, you know, the role of Taiwan in the life of the United States has changed a lot since the end of the cold war. I mean, how -- how has the strategic importance of Taiwan changed for us, now that the cold war is over?

TYLER: Taiwan used to be called "the unsinkable aircraft carrier" off the Chinese coast. And once upon a time in the Eisenhower administration, the United States stored nuclear weapons there, but also lots of conventional weapons because it was assumed that if World War III broke out that U.S. forces in the Pacific would attack China from Taiwan and other bases in the Pacific while U.S. and European armies would attack the Soviet Union from the plains of Europe. And so it was a very, very important strategic aircraft carrier, as it was called.

Of course, when the cold war ended and when President Nixon went to China and began the normalization process, this began to collapse. And it really dashed the dreams of Chiang Kai-shek and his family that some day there would be a return to the mainland. In other words, the nationalists would go back and defeat the communists and take over all of the mainland again. That really went into history.

But then something happened. I mean, Taiwan began to flower as a democracy. The dictatorship that effectively was Chiang Kai-shek's rule also ended with his death, and his son began opening up the society. And today you have a situation that didn't exist when President Nixon went to China in 1972. Today you have 22 million people that are living in a democracy and whose -- and who must be consulted about their own future. And that's a different and complicating factor in resolving this issue.

GROSS: And Taiwan is, I think, kind of thriving economically.

TYLER: Oh, it's one of the tigers -- tiger economies of Asia. I'm sure this earthquake will be a bit of a setback, but it is a major trading partner to the United States. But also, Terry, we have to remember -- we should never forget, in fact -- that Taiwan is a major financial force on the mainland. About $20 billion or $30 billion of Taiwanese investment has gone over to the mainland to build a lot of those factories and fuel the economic transformation that's going on there.

So when we step back from the process, there's been a lot of constructive back and forth and integration going on between Taiwan and the mainland, and we should keep out of the way of that, I think.

GROSS: You point out that when Bill Clinton first ran for the presidency, he'd never visited China, but he had made four trips to Taiwan with the Arkansas trade delegation. What does that say?

TYLER: Well, it shows how effective the Taiwanese have been over the years in making friends in America in all 50 states. And of course, it's a wonderful culture. I did my Chinese language training on Taiwan, lived there for a year, in fact, went through a minor earthquake there, in which my whole room shook for several minutes and scared the devil out of me. But the economy there is the most vibrant aspect of the success story and will continue to be. And the political transformation on Taiwan is an important factor in how these two societies come back together.

GROSS: You don't think that the earthquake will be too much of a setback for Taiwan? You think it can recover from that?

TYLER: It sounds like most of the worst damage is down in the center of the island, which is very mountainous, and the population is not as dense. Taipei, the capital in the north, is a city of several million people and is very dense. And of course, they had some damage there. One of the big hotels even fell over. But it -- I don't think it'll be a major setback to, say, the computer industry, which is located on the periphery, and I think those production lines will be back at work. And the Taiwanese economy overall will weather this fairly well.

GROSS: My guest is Patrick Tyler, "The New York Times's" former Beijing bureau chief. His new book is called "A Great Wall." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Patrick Tyler. He's the author of the new book, "A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, an Investigative History." He's the former Beijing bureau chief for "The New York Times" and will soon be reporting for "The Times" from Moscow.

You say in your book that the pro-Taiwan influence is very strong in Congress. The China influence is very strong in the White House. Can you explain that division, Taiwan in Congress, China White House?

TYLER: I think it goes back to Nixon. When President Nixon went to see Mao Zedong in 1972, it began this presidential relationship that then each president in following -- President Ford and Carter and Reagan, Bush, Clinton, et cetera -- they have all developed personal relationships in which they have had to reaffirm the basic commitments that President Nixon first made in the Shanghai Communique, that the United States recognizes Beijing as the sole government of the Chinese people and stands for some kind of peaceful reunification of the mainland and Taiwan.

Each president has reaffirmed those commitments, and so the Chinese have focused on the White House because presidents have signed those communiques -- the Shanghai Communique, and then there have been two others -- that really are the framework of the relationship. Taiwan's friends are in Congress, and Taiwan knows that with an investment of time and money and travel and trade offices in each state and all sorts of inducements, it can develop a constituency that will protect its interests in Congress. And it's very, very effectively done that.

GROSS: It's been a strange period in Chinese-American relations. You know, there's the Chinese spying scandal, where we learned China spied on the Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory and got nuclear weapons secrets. Then there's been allegations of illegal Chinese campaign contributions. And then, you know, NATO accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. And there was a really virulent anti-American demonstration in China after that.

TYLER: It's been a heck of a summer, hasn't it.

GROSS: Yeah. What do you think accounted for just the virulence of the demonstrations against America after the bombing?

TYLER: Against the U.S. -- yeah, against the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Yeah. I just recently saw Ambassador Sasser, who was trapped in that embassy for four days and has lived to tell about it. I think those demonstrations were both orchestrated but also spontaneous, in the sense that the students who participated wanted and volunteered to do so, to express their anger.

For one reason, Terry, that the journalists who were killed by the NATO bombing were writing front-page stories about what was going on in Yugoslavia and were covering the NATO campaign for a Chinese audience. And so their death was felt by their audience in Beijing, even thought they were -- of course, they were spinning the story in the direction the government there wanted it to go.

But also, I think the reaction is -- was a reflection of all the grievances that China had been storing up over the past couple of years over American objections to China's entry into the World Trade Organization, from the human rights campaign against China at the U.N. that has been mounted by European nations but also by the United States.

And there was this -- the Chinese take advantage of any opportunity to get leverage or to get advantage in the relationship. And so they trotted out all of those students, who were then allowed to trash the embassy building and trash the cars around there, to show how upset they were with the Cox commission, with American diplomacy and with the anti -- with the virulent anti-Chinese strain, which they sense exists in our domestic political process.

GROSS: So how deep do you think the distrust of Americans runs right now in China? I guess, you know, what really confused me during those anti-American demonstrations around the embassy -- just a few years ago, I guess around 10 years ago, during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, Chinese students seemed to be so, well, in synch with the idea of American democracy.

TYLER: Right.

GROSS: And then this seemed to be such a reversal.

TYLER: Right. Well, we've lost the battle for the hearts and minds of Chinese youth. I mean, Chinese youth today are much more inclined to believe that their government is sincerely trying to better the interests of the Chinese nation and of Chinese industries and Chinese trade and Chinese foreign policy. And they're much more inclined to believe the worst about the United States, even though they were very much in admiration of the United States and erected that "goddess of democracy" on Tiananmen Square in June -- in May, 1989.

And so what's happened in the 10 years since, Terry, is really the kind of the loss of -- of confidence and faith among Chinese youth that the United States was really taking the position that was in the best interests of the future of China. They've begun to react. And of course, their government has cleverly exploited every confrontation to show that the United States is putting too much pressure on China, is not giving China a chance to develop in a normal course, et cetera.

And I think over time, we have lost it. And Chinese youth are extremely patriotic. That's another thing you have to remember. And anything...

GROSS: Even after Tiananmen Square?

TYLER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Of course, not in the immediate aftermath. In the immediate aftermath of Tiananmen Square, Chinese youth were extremely angry at their government. But that was 10 years ago, and there's been an internal recovery going on, where the -- where the leadership has tried to make its case that the students, too -- the students on Tiananmen Square dragged the confrontation over the cliff by staying there in defiance of every request for them to leave. And of course, you can't defend the crackdown or the government's behavior, but the -- but the leadership -- the Communist Party leadership has cleverly made its case and has -- and is winning the Chinese youth back.

GROSS: Hong Kong is now under the control of China, although it's part of a plan that's known as "One country, two systems." There are parts of life in Hong Kong that are a bit more liberal than in China. I'm wondering if you think that holds a possible solution for Taiwan and its relationship with China. Do you think Taiwan could become part of China, but have a slightly -- slightly different system than the Chinese people live under?

TYLER: Oh, sure. I -- in fact, I think that Deng Xiaoping, when he invented this notion of "One country, two systems," that is now applicable in Hong Kong -- that he invented it really for Taiwan. He thought in the early 1980s he was first going to get to make that kind of offer to Taiwan, that the Carter administration and the Reagan administration would stop selling arms to Taiwan or reduce them to the point that Taiwan would see that it's time to settle this matter politically and engage in real negotiations. It never really happened, but this concept of "One country, two systems" was born. It's a good concept for this reason, because it allows all of the constructive aspects of what's occurred in Taiwanese and Hong Kong society to be exported into mainland China. And I think most Chinese understand that this -- that the future of mainland China can now be seen on Taiwan and Hong Kong, that that's what the future will be. And that's why we've got to stay out of the way to the greatest extent possible, to let that process happen.

GROSS: This is the process you'd like to see happen?

TYLER: Absolutely, and it requires us to be a little restrained and self-confident that we are the preeminent military power in Asia, and therefore we can simply state that we stand for a peaceful transition. And maybe every once in a while, we'll have to deploy some aircraft carriers to the region to let either side know that neither can solve this by unilateral actions, neither can make a declaration that will change this history. They have to do it through dialogue and negotiation together.

GROSS: Hasn't there, though, been some Chinese repression in Hong Kong since the Chinese took control over Hong Kong?

TYLER: There are a lot of people in Hong Kong who are not totally satisfied with how the "One country, two systems" promise is working. And there are some people who are kind of pessimistic about the long term there, Terry. I don't know how to evaluate that. I think you almost have to live there to be able to sense kind of day to day the increments and how they're changing.

But come on. I mean, the reality is if you go to Hong Kong, it is still a very vibrant place where people feel that they can sound off on any issue. And that's intact. And if that improves, if that just continues -- and the Hong Kong people are fiercely protecting their rights to sound off on any issue -- that'll be very positive. I think only time will tell. I guess I'd have to say I can't answer your question yet.

GROSS: Patrick Tyler is the author of "A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, an Investigative History." He'll be back in the second half of the show.

We'd like to make a correction regarding a tape we aired last week. The interview that we broadcast with David E. Kelley was recorded at a conference called Words Into Pictures, which was presented by the Writers Guild Foundation. Thanks to the foundation for making the interview available for broadcast.

I'm Terry Gross.


TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross

Back with Patrick Tyler, author of the new book "A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China." It's an investigative history of U.S.-China relations based in part on thousands of pages of newly declassified documents. Tyler is "The New York Times"' former Beijing bureau chief. He's preparing for his next assignment in Russia.

You've gone back for this book and went through Freedom of Information Act files to find out the kind of secret history between American and Chinese relations by looking at the six presidents and China. What would you say is the biggest surprise that you found going through the Freedom of Information Act files?

PATRICK TYLER, "A GREAT WALL: SIX PRESIDENTS AND CHINA": I'd say the biggest surprise is one that has been papered over in the mythology that President Nixon came into office with an eye toward staging the opening to China.

What I found through interview and through documents that have now been declassified is that for the first few months of the Nixon administration, he was so worried about how to get out of Vietnam and so focused on the Soviet Union as the country that could deliver Hanoi to the negotiating table -- because, as you remember, it was the Soviet Union that was sending all of the military supplies to Hanoi to keep the war going -- he was so focused on the Soviet Union as being able to deliver Hanoi to the table that he was willing to talk about what the Soviets wanted.

And very quickly after his administration took office, the Chinese and the Soviets started fighting a border war up in Manchuria. And Brezhnev, the Soviet leader, became obsessed with the notion that Mao was going to grow into a large nuclear armed power who was completely mad and irresponsible and would bring the world toward -- to World War III.

And so what the Soviets started talking about was, Why don't we, the United States and the Soviet Union together, make sure that China never becomes a nuclear power, even to the point, if we have to go bomb their nuclear facilities and attack China? And Melvin Laird, who was President Nixon's first secretary of defense, and others on Dr. Kissinger's staff, and through some documentations, indicate that this was very much on people's minds, it was actively considered for the first few months.

But then it fell apart because it became clear the Soviets were not willing to help the United States get out of Vietnam. In fact, it was their interest to keep the war going. And that put Nixon back on the road to China.

GROSS: So right before Nixon began the process of opening relations with China, he seriously entertained the idea of bombing China's nuclear weapons industry?

TYLER: Absolutely. And what -- you know, the State Department has now declassified the conversations that preceded the Nixon administration about this very kind of joint venture, which both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson were also interested in. But during their terms in office, the Soviets weren't interested.

What changed, Terry, was when Nixon came into office, the border war between China and the Soviet Union made Brezhnev get obsessed with the China threat, and he wanted to neuter Mao by taking away his nuclear weapons.

GROSS: So do you see Nixon opening relations with -- beginning the process of opening relations with China as a way of playing China and the Soviet Union off of each other so that neither got too big?

TYLER: Well, in part. I mean, I don't think this revelation changes the Nixon legacy. It was still a piece of far-sighted diplomacy. We had gone too long not talking to one-fifth of humanity on mainland China.

But what it does is adjust the Nixon legacy, showing that he was so relentlessly and even ruthlessly pragmatic about international affairs and America's position in the world at the time, which was on the defensive, that he was willing to bomb China, going -- and take away China's nuclear capability if that was the price to pay to the Soviets in order to get out of Vietnam.

And Nixon knew there would be no second term for Richard Nixon if he didn't solve the Vietnam problem first.

GROSS: From the Chinese point of view, who do you think were the best American presidents? Which presidents were most favored by China?

TYLER: Certainly President Nixon, for making -- for taking the first step, even though they were disillusioned and Watergate so weakened Nixon that he couldn't complete the process. They never forgot that he is the president who got on the plane and flew out there past the Iron Curtain in the western rim of the Pacific to what was really terra incognita, and no president had ever dared to go there.

And it was truly a sensational opening. But then you'd have to say that President Carter, who -- in whose administration the final step was taken, that the Chinese were enormously grateful, because he showed the political courage that President Ford and Dr. Kissinger couldn't muster during the Ford administration, to take on the conservative elements in Congress and Taiwan's friends there and go ahead and say that we're going to break relations with Taiwan and recognize mainland China.

GROSS: How do you think President Reagan was seen by his -- by the Chinese leadership?

TYLER: They were terrified of him because he was such close friends with Taiwan. He had a history, going back to Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Kai-shek's family, and he -- you know, he had this notion of old friends. You know, we stand with those people who stood with us against communism.

And he had all of -- a lot of his advisers and political advisers had been on Taiwan's payroll, either as public relations men or lobbyists. And so they were terrified that he would come into office and roll back the clock that Jimmy Carter had rolled forward. And so they regarded him with great suspicion, and they handled him with great care. They were delighted, of course, that George Bush, whom they considered a friend, was going to be the vice president.

GROSS: And how do you think Bill Clinton is regarded now by the Chinese leadership?

TYLER: I think they're trying to be extremely correct with Bill Clinton and have a relationship that is mutually beneficial for the domestic politics in both Washington and Beijing. I mean, I said to a group the other night that I was talking to, I said, "Just because Bill Clinton is down there in New Zealand rubbing noses with Jiang Zemin, the president of China, you shouldn't feel like all your problems are over in this relationship."

We're headed into a presidential campaign, and China could easily become a -- the kind of issue it was in the 1992 campaign when Bill Clinton said George Bush has been coddling dictators from Baghdad to Beijing.

China is a tough issue for our domestic politics because of the Taiwan issue, and it's likely to be in future political campaigns also.

GROSS: In this New Zealand meeting that you were mentioning, though, is when the World Trade Organization met there. China really wants to become a part of the World Trade Organization. Do you think it will?

TYLER: I think it will eventually, but I think the time has almost run out for the Clinton administration. I think President Clinton has missed a big opportunity when the Chinese premier came to the United States last spring. His name is Zhu Rongji. And, you know, a lot of us journalists used to call him the potential Gorbachev of China. He really is a progressive economist, a very -- and a pragmatist.

And instead of engaging him and taking the concessions he brought to Washington, and acting on them to bring China into the World Trade Organization, I think President Clinton was a little bit paralyzed. He was worried, as usual, about the congressional politics of it, congressional criticism. And he let it go by. And I think that's hurt Zhu Rongji in China, and it's a setback for the WTO process.

So I think it's unlikely now that China will make it in under Clinton.

GROSS: My guest is Patrick Tyler, "The New York Times" former Beijing bureau chief. His new book is called "A Great Wall." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Patrick Tyler. He's the author of the new book "A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, an Investigative History." He's the former Beijing bureau chief for "The New York Times," and will soon be covering Russia.

You write about one of your adventures in China in February of 1997, when you were detained by a squad of Chinese policemen in a small town on China's border with Kazakhstan. You were trying to reach a remote city where Chinese Muslims had rioted during the holy month of Ramadan. Why were you detained?

TYLER: That was a very sensitive frontier, and it was the same frontier across which Harry Wu, the activist who has campaigned against prison labor in China, tried to sneak into China a few years ago. And so the Chinese have gotten very clever about their border stations, and they've computerized all of them. And they keep in the computer the names and passport numbers of people there they want to watch and keep out of China.

In my case, my passport bore the stamp of a journalist, and the Far West in China has become a very sensitive area because of the Muslim unrest there. And they've been trying to keep journalists out of it. So I went to the trouble of leaving Beijing and flying to Kazakhstan and then -- then I was trying to create the fiction that I was simply entering China on the Kazakh border as a way to drive back to Beijing, and I would just -- so that I would be able to pass through this area where the Muslims had rioted during the month of Ramadan.

GROSS: Explain how they basically locked you up.

TYLER: When I came across the border in rickety over -- old bus, and they saw my passport, they yelled out the word, "Jija (ph)!" which means "journalist." And about 12 of them came -- surrounded me and escorted me into the customs hall where my baggage began about a four-hour inspection. I was only carrying a backpack and a briefcase with some clothes and my computer in it.

And they took everything apart. And afterwards they took me to a small hotel that was owned by the police authorities in -- at the border post. And they put me in my room and told me to stay there, and then they chained the front door with a tractor chain, one of those big old chains that you could pull a log through the forest with, and a big padlock. And the whole wing of the hotel was locked up because I was in one of the rooms.

And I had to break out of there that night.

GROSS: How'd you break out? I mean, how do you break out of a padlocked door?

TYLER: (laughs) I didn't include every detail of this in my recounting of it. But when I got the call that the paramount leader of China, Deng Xiaoping, had died in Beijing, I was in a terrible panic to get back and do my job in Beijing, (INAUDIBLE)...

GROSS: And you found out about this while you were basically imprisoned?

TYLER: While -- yes, while I was locked in my room, one of my colleagues, Seth Fason (ph), who's our Shanghai correspondent, he got a call through, and said, "Reuters has just reported that the -- that Chinois (ph), the state news agency, says Deng is dead." And I said, "Oh, my God, I'm as far away from Beijing as I can be."

And I ran out of my room and down to the place where the tractor chain was holding the two glass doors. And as usual in a hotel, you've got a kind of a guard who sleeps by the door in a little closety room. And I dragged him out of there, and I said, "My son is in Beijing, and he's just fallen seriously ill, and I have to go home." And he said, "Well, I can't open the door." And I said, "Listen, either you open this door," and then I picked up a chair that was next to him, "or I'm throwing this chair through the door," as a way to go through it.

And so after a few minutes of this kind of standoff, he finally opened the chain, and I just pushed by him with my bags and went hoofing down the road looking for some kind of ride. It was two in the morning, looking for some kind of ride to get to the provincial capital to get to the airport and find a plane back to Beijing.

GROSS: So you hitched a ride?

TYLER: I hitched a ride across that desert. It's an eight-hour stretch across that desert. It was one of the worst rides, because I told the fellow I would give him an extra thousand Chinese yen if he broke his own personal record for speed across that desert.

And I ran into the airport in Arumchi (ph), which is the provincial capital, and I ran up to the girl at the desk and I said, "I've got to get on the plane to Beijing." And she said, "There are no more planes today to Beijing." And I almost fainted.

And just at that moment, the loudspeaker went on, and in Chinese the speaker said, "Passengers for the next flight to Tianjin, please start boarding." And Tianjin is just 30 minutes away from Beijing. And I said to the woman, I said, "You've got a plane to Tianjin!" She said, "Well, you said Beijing."

GROSS: So...

TYLER: And I almost throttled her, and then I bought a ticket from her and ran for that flight, in the -- and got on it. And I -- and it was full of Chinese who were passing through history on the day that Deng died. And I was sitting there in my chair and I said, My gosh, I wonder what all these people think about the future of China today.

And so I got up, and I spent the next two hours of that flight going up and down the aisle talking to these Chinese about what they thought on the day that Deng died.

GROSS: Well, the things some people have to do to cover a story! (laughs) So when you finally got to Beijing and you were able to file about the death, what did you write? What was your first story?

TYLER: I wrote -- Seth Fason, my colleague, wrote the news lead that day, and I got in, and I wrote the news analysis, which tried to put in perspective what it meant that Deng had died, what it would mean for the party leadership and the -- really, the large revolutionary tribe that Mao Zedong headed as a revolutionary leader, and which still existed as a big collective and really still rules China as a big collective clan of revolutionaries, not really state builders, not really statesmen so much as they are a family of -- who passed through this revolution together and are still around as a lot of old men.

And so I wrote that China was going to have to define what the next mandate was, the mandate for the leadership. It's an old Chinese expression that the Chinese leader has the mandate of heaven. And I wrote about what they would have to do to invent a new mandate.

GROSS: Say you were still behind that padlocked door under the control of the Chinese authorities, instead of being able to get to Beijing and file an analysis piece about the death of Deng Xiaoping. How would you have felt, how do you think your editors in New York, at "The New York Times," would have felt?

TYLER: Well, I've got to straighten this story out a little bit, because what happened while I was still padlocked is, when I first tried to escape, someone came running out and said the phone was ringing. And I picked up the phone, it was the foreign desk of "The New York Times," and they said, "Joe Lallyveld (ph), the editor, wants to know what you think today. And so before you break out of the hotel"...

GROSS: (laughs)

TYLER: ... "sit down and dictate, you know, 2,000 words of news analysis that we can have, and then when you get to Beijing you can follow up." And so I did that in that room on a little tiny -- almost like one of those things that you keep phone numbers in, and wrote 2,000 words about the new mandate of heaven and what the new leadership of China would have to do after -- in the aftermath of Deng's death. (INAUDIBLE)...

GROSS: And then you broke out?

TYLER: And then I broke out. (laughs)

GROSS: Were you happy with the story? Did the pressure suit your writing style?

TYLER: I have to say that it was the best piece of writing I've done in those kind of conditions in a long time. But I also have to say that Bill Keller, who was on the other end, and it was the managing editor of the paper, did a terrific job of kind of stitching together and doing some more editing and calling me back and kibitzing a little bit. And out of that process came a piece that I was really proud of.

GROSS: How do you think that incident affected your view of the Chinese government?

TYLER: Oh, you try not to let these things color your view. I mean, this is not the worst thing that happened to me when I was in China. I had to bring my dog home because they threatened to kill all large dogs, and we had this golden retriever. And I said to my wife, "I'm not going to put our dog in harm's way, because it might affect how I personally think of China and the Chinese leadership for a long time."

And I got arrested a couple of other times when I was working there. And you're dealing with, you know, not the most pleasant part of the security apparatus when that happens. But you just -- if you're a political reporter and have spent any time there, you understand how separate that is from the political leadership and how it's -- it's how police are everywhere.

GROSS: And why was there a rule to kill large dogs?

TYLER: In Beijing? God only knows. The Beijing municipal Communist Party Committee, which -- and there's a history, you know, of the communists in China being against dogs because of competition for food and no useful constructive revolutionary purpose in Chinese society. They had always a bias against dogs, and especially large dogs. And of course, as prosperity has come to China, more and more people have bought those small dogs, like they have in Hong Kong and on Taiwan, because it became fashionable.

So it was a kind of a compromise, so they decided to have a revolutionary pure political struggle against large dogs, and they just issued a decree in the city and threatened to just seize large dogs and put them to death.

And so I -- we decided to take Sophie, our golden retriever, out of there that summer, as soon as we could.

GROSS: So what did you do with her?

TYLER: We found a friend near our cabin in West Virginia who had just ejected her husband and was looking for companionship, and Sophie fit the bill.


GROSS: Well, you used to be the Beijing bureau chief for "The New York Times," you'll soon be going to Moscow, where you'll be reporting for "The New York Times." What are some of the things you're doing to prepare for your new assignment?

TYLER: Oh, I had a wonderful spring in St. Petersburg, Russia. I moved in with an elderly pensioner lady in a three-room flat in St. Petersburg. She didn't speak a lick of English, and I was taking Russian all day at the state university of St. Petersburg. And it was just a way to kind of break the psychological barrier and start my Russian language studies.

And of course I got to go to the Kirov Ballet five times while I was there, and I saw the greatest ballet of my life. I got to see Uliana Lupatkin (ph) dance "Swan Lake," which ranks as one of the 10 most beautiful things I've ever seen.

And so I -- and then I came back for the summer, and I've had a wonderful teacher doing six days a week, six hours a day of Russian, just drilling all of that into my aging head in hopes that I'll be able to speak the language by the time I start work around the presidential elections next spring.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

TYLER: Sure enjoyed it, thanks.

GROSS: And I wish you good luck in Russia.

TYLER: Thanks a lot.

GROSS: Patrick Tyler is the author of "A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, an Investigative History."

Coming up, we listen to one of George C. Scott's great performances. He has died at the age of 71.

This is FRESH AIR.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Patrick Tyler
High: Journalist Patrick Tyler, former "New York Times" Beijing bureau chief, discusses his new book about 30 years of U.S./China relations: "A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China: In Investigative History."
Spec: World Affairs; China; Media

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Patrick Tyler: 30 Years of U.S./China Relations

Date: SEPTEMBER 23, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 092302NP.217
Head: George C. Scott: A Retrospective
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

GROSS: Actor George C. Scott has died at the age of 71. He starred in such films as "The Hustler," "Anatomy of a Murder," "They Might Be Giants," "Petulia," "The Hospital," and "Hard Core." He played generals in two of his most memorable films, the 1964 nuclear satire, "Dr. Strangelove," and the 1970 World War I drama, "Patton."

He won an Academy Award for "Patton" but declined to accept it, disliking awards and awards ceremonies.

In memory of Scott, we're going to play one of his most celebrated film scenes, from the movie "Patton." Here's Scott as General Patton preparing his troops for battle in the film's opening scene.


GEORGE C. SCOTT: Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

And then all this stuff you've heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.

When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxer. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and (INAUDIBLE). That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war, because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.

Now, an army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The biggest bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for "The Saturday Evening Post" don't know anything more about real battle than they do about fornicating.

Now, we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. You know, my God, I actually pity those poor bastards we're going up against. By God, I do. We're not just going to shoot the bastards, we're going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We're going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel.

Now, some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you'll chicken out under fire. Don't worry about it. I can assure you that you will all do your duty. The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them, spill their blood, shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend's face, you'll know what to do.

Now, there's another thing I want you to remember. I don't want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We're not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly, and we're not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We're going to hold onto him by the nose and we're going to kick him in the ass. We're going to kick the hell out of him all the time, and we're going to go through him like crap through a goose.

Now, there's one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home. And you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now, when you're sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, "What did you do in the great World War I?" you won't have to say, "Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana."

All right, now, you sons of bitches, you know how I feel. I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle any time, anywhere.

That's all.


GROSS: George C. Scott in a scene from "Patton." Scott has died at the age of 71.

FRESH AIR's senior producer today was Joan Tuey Westmond (ph). Our interviews and reviews are produced by Amy Sallett (ph), Phyllis Meyers (ph), and Naomi Person, with Monique Nazareth and Anne-Marie Boldonado (ph). Research assistance from Helen Wang (ph).

I'm Terry Gross.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
High: A retrospective of the career of actor George C. Scott, who died Wednesday at the age of 71.
Spec: George C. Scott; Movie Industry; Death

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: George C. Scott: A Retrospective
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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