Hu Jintao At Yale University

Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the U.S. ended with a speech delivered to an invited audience at Yale University.  

First things first -- another reporter got tossed out.  From Associated Press:

A CNN reporter was thrown out of a private reception in Yale President Richard Levin's office after he shouted a question about whether Hu had seen more than 1,000 protesters gathered on the city green.  Yale spokeswoman Helene Kalsky said the reporter was thrown out because, "We invited you to cover an event, not to hold a press conference."  She said the event was only meant to be a photo opportunity and ceremony. 

As for the speech itself, Xinhua has the full Chinese text (胡锦涛在美国耶鲁大学的演讲).  Alternately, you can read this in traditional Chinese chararacters at ETTV (via Yahoo! News Taiwan).  As for the English text, China Daily has a summary but WFSB has the full text.  Given the way that the western media tends to read this kind of thing, the key paragraph in this text is probably this one that refers to democracy:

We care about people's value, rights and interests and freedom, the quality of their life, and their development potential and happiness index because our goal is to realize this all-around development of the people. Ensuring the right to survival and development remains China's top priority. We will vigorously promote social and economic development, protect people's freedom, democracy and human rights according to law, achieve social fairness and justice and enable the 1.3 billion Chinese people to live a happy life.

In a brief question-and-answer session after his speech, Mr. Hu was asked about restrictions on political freedom. The written questions from the audience were read by Ernesto Zedillo, the former president of Mexico and now the director of Yale's Center for the Study of Globalization.   The Associated Press reports:

But when asked whether his country's restrictions on political expression would cause unrest and hinder its economic growth, he said China was committed to democracy but had no plans to simply import other countries' policies.  "On one hand, we are ready and willing to draw on the useful experience of foreign countries into political involvement," he said. "On the other hand, we will not simply copy the political models of other countries." The question was one of a couple that Hu answered from among those submitted in advance in writing.

From Los Angeles Times:

His speech to an audience of about 600 students and professors was also broadcast live in China except for a brief question-and-answer session in which Hu was asked whether Beijing views the United States as an ally or adversary, and if China's economic development comes at the cost of political rights.  Hu answered that China would open its political system gradually and "prudently," but that the decades of booming growth "demonstrated that China's political system suits its development."


My interest here is just what the invited audience of 600 of Yale students and faculty thought about the speech.  The coverage is actually quite sparse:

From Los Angeles Times:

The audience at Yale, Bush's alma mater and the university that played host to America's first Chinese graduate in 1854, was receptive and polite.

Students giggled when Hu's translation earpiece fell out of his ear and when he clapped along with the audience applauding him. But his speech was uninterrupted by hecklers unlike the previous day at the White House when a protester in the news media stands diverted cameras from Hu with her shouts.

From the New York Times:

Students filing out of Sprague Hall after the speech said they were impressed by Mr. Hu, but not surprised by his message.  Minhua Ling, 25, a doctoral student in anthropology from Shanghai, said she thought Mr. Hu was more direct today than he had been at the White House.  "The message was very clear: China will do its own democracy in a very Chinese kind of way," Ms. Ling said.

From ChineseNewsNet

(in translation)  The reaction of the students who heard Hu Jintao's speech was basically positive.  Yale University undergraduate Andrew Manginot was impressed most of all by the huge economic changes in China over the past 20 years or so.  But Hu Jintao did not directly respond to his questions about human rights and freedom in China.

Yale University Department of Chinese Lanuage graduate student Price said that Hu Jintao did not strike people as unlikeable and he strikes people as being capable of promoting progressive things.

Department of Political Science doctoral student Zhang Zhuanjie said that Hu Jintao's speech at Yale University will help outsiders understand China and to improve China's contribution in international affairs.  This is good thing for China and the world.

It would turn out that the most detailed report would come from Taiwan's ETTV (via Yahoo! News Taiwan).  This is an extraordinary report because the two reporters stated their agenda (namely, to find critical voices).  How often do you encounter reporters who spell out their agendas?

(in translation)

Criticisms are bound to come with respect to freedom and democracy in mainland China.  Yet in the Yale University Speech, Hu Jintao invoked the word "democracy" no less than 10 times.  It was astonishing that the Yale students and other audience that heard this speech almost uniformly believed that Hu Jintao's "democratic theory" was reasonable.

"Following the law to implement democratic elections, democratic decisions, democratic administration, democratic monitoring ..."

After bringing up some many 'democracies', the leader of this Communist nation seems to have a deep yearning for democracy.  Yet, his premise was: "The democratic experience of foreign countries cannot be followed exactly.  It can only be used for consultation."

What did the 600 students, faculty members and other people who heard the speech think?  Yale University was thorough enough to invite a few students to the media center and tell the reporters what they thought.  It turned out that all the students thought that Hu Jintao spoke very well.  We did not give up and we interviewed a few more students.  We did not expect that they all thought that Hu Jintao made good sense.

One student said: "Democracy in China must progress at its own pace.  It cannot go too fast in a country that is so vast."

A Yale student named Gao Rui (高蕊) from mainland China said: "The most urgent task in China right down is economic development as well as the development of some basic human rights, such as what Chairman Hu said about the right to survive and the right to develop.  After that, there can be more political reforms.  Therefore, I thought he spoke quite well."

Another Yale student said: "He seemed to care a lot about the future of Sino-American relations.  I feel very encouraged."

A Yale student named Zhou Quanqun (周冠群) from Taiwan said: "I think it would be very good if China was really willing to consult the political systems in other countries and then actually apply them."

Actually, after this speech, the media reporters really wanted to heard some different voices.  We did not imagine that the opinions of the students in attendance would be so uniform. This is such a strong contrast with the group of protestors on the outside.

This is what was happening outside ...


Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi


Associated Press