Global Future with James Chau: President Jimmy Carter interview
Global future means the maintenance of peace on earth and the championship of human rights. We include in human rights the ability of a family to live in peace, to have adequate education, a decent home to live and an absence of diseases that inflict them and can be eradicated and eliminated. So, for everyone to understand each other and to work harmoniously with each other is what the world needs to learn how to do.
This is Global Future with me, James Chau. I'm in Plains, Georgia, a small, rural town where Jimmy Carter grew up, flourished as a peanut farmer, and works now on peace, global health and complex geopolitical issues. Today, he'll speak with me on how his experiences as President of the United States - and a milestone of that, the diplomatic relationship he forged for the US with China. This is a rare opportunity to speak with a true, moral statesman.
JC: President Carter, you live an extraordinary life both as a statesman and as a humanitarian. When you look at the world today, what do you think of the world?
PC: Well, I am concerned about the conflict in the world. I'm concerned about inadequate equality of income. We still have too many poor people, too much disease on earth, and too many wars going on. And I feel great admiration for what President Xi Jinping is doing in China. You maintained peace now for forty years in China. And you set a goal of eliminating poverty completely in the next three years. That's an admirable goal for him to set. I don't have any doubt that he can meet his goal if he is dedicated and I am sure he is.
JC: Poverty obviously is a very complex issue. You and everybody know how difficult it is, and not just in China, but also in developed economies like the United States. What do you think it's going take to close out that gap in such a short period of time?
PC: I don't think it is going to be closed out in the next three years in other parts of the world but I think I have confidence in China. It will be able to meet President Xi Jinping's goal. We need to have better access to equality among our citizens, because in our country at least in many countries, there are wealthy people that want to have a major voice in the outcome of election. When candidates can't get into office, they give favors to their friends to get elected. So that's a big problem in our country, in parts of Europe as well.
JC: It's not just poverty. It's also climate change. The President is leading on that front, but you knew China when it was just transitioning from a country that was once closed to the world. Are you surprised with that knowledge that a leader from such a country could now be so much a part of it and leading it?
PC: Back a few decades ago that the United States was in the forefront of leading the fight to clean environment, to deal with the threats of global warming. Nowadays, the situation has changed completely. China has become the leader I think in the world. Obviously, the United States and China are still the two greatest polluters of the environment, so we have such a heavy dependence on our infrastructure, on our economy to factories and burning of coals. But I think both countries are moving forward, but China is taking the leadership for which I am very grateful. And I know that President Trump and President Xi Jinping have discussed it quite thoroughly on their meetings together both in Florida and also in Beijing. And I'm very grateful that China has made deep commitment to resolving the air pollution in Beijing we experienced many times, and also to solving the overall problems in the whole world.
JC: Your work occupied many important place markets in history. One of them is the establishment of the US-China relationship. When you think back to that time, is there one memory that stands out perhaps above the others?
PC: My overwhelming memory was when Deng Xiaoping visited me in Whitehouse for nine days. And he and I signed several dozen agreements to end the thirty five years of separation between our two countries. And I was really impressed with his determination to see China become active into our world and to maintain peace. He told me at that time that China had great plans to invade Vietnam. I didn't like that idea. I thought it was a bad way to start our new relationship. But it surely would be a very brave to invade Vietnam at that time. Now for about forty years, of course, Chinese people have not been at war with another country. I think, the United States, on the other hand, we've been in the world with more than twenty different countries during that time. And China has used its resources, major economic development, to do some very wonderful things for your country. You have thousands of miles of high speed railway, you have improved bridges, you produced founded new universities. I was really pleased when Deng Xiaoping went back to China that he called me on the phone one night, woke me up in fact. And he said he would send five thousand students over here to our colleges and I was kind of angry. And I said television said a hundred thousand. Hang on, we have over three hundred thousand Chinese students in our universities. So he carried out his vision and he shared with me during those nights and days together in a very beautiful way and now I think China is playing a major role in helping other nations to improve their relationships with outside world and all the economies as well. The Carter Center worked very closely with China, as you probably know, in dealing with the problems in some of the countries like Africa. And I look forward to the time when Carter Center and China will be world partners in the massive health programs The Carter Center has already established in Africa.
JC: Were you angry more because you only suggested five thousands, or because he woke you up in the middle of the night?
PC: At the time when I was angry because he woke me up at the middle of the night. It was about three o'clock in the morning here in Washington. And so I was glad he asked me but I was not sure whether he had a limit on how many we can. It was just over 3 years that we had more than a hundred thousand Chinese students, now we have as I said earlier 300,000 Chinese students in our country, and we hope to have more American students in Chinese universities in the future.
​JC: You're on the cusp for achieving what was once believed to be an impossible dream, and that is to close out and to eradicate Guinea worm disease.
PC: Yes.
JC: The numbers are extraordinary, and improvement even more so. In this world the mid-1980s, when you set up this Carter Center and you picked Guinea worm and now in 2018, what would you pick now? What would you tell world leaders this is the one thing you can work on?
PC: Well, one thing the Carter Center has, we have the only organization in the world that analyzes every human illness, frequently to ask which illness might be completely eliminated in a particular country or eradicate it from the entire world. This is called international test for disease and eradication. So we have an insight into what's happening in the development of our ability to do away with these terrible diseases. So the Carter Center now addresses six what we called neglected trouble diseases. Guinea worm is one of them, and we've been working on Guinea worm longer than the others. we started out with three and a half million cases of Guinea worm in 21 countries, and now we only have it left in two countries, a few cases. So we know where every case of Guinea worm in the world and we have worked very eagerly to see the last case ended on earth while I am still alive. That's my goal in life.
JC: You've also talked about your goals and also your dreams for North Korea, a country that you visited and that you still want to engage. Can China moderate the nuclear issues? Some say they can but doesn't necessarily do.
PC: Well, most people in the United States think that China has a complete control over North Korea, which I know is not true. You have influence, but not control. So I don't know Kim Jong-un personally. I knew his father and his grandfather and I negotiated successfully with his grandfather back in 1994 who agreed to do away with the nuclear program that had then and a purification of uranium so they couldn't be explosive. He agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency come, inspect regularly without any obstacle. So we were very happy then we had a good relationship for a short time between the United States and North Korea. I spent about twenty hours in detailed discussions with the top leaders of North Korea. And I know that the people there won't and leaders won't is to have a peace treaty with the United States to replace the short term cease fire. What I want is a firm guarantee from the United States to not attack them as long as they remain a peaceful relationship with the neighbors, with South Korea and other countries. And I think that's something that we should agree to do. And I think that's something Kim Jong-un would accept. There is a firm commitment on our part and China can help with this. We need to have bilateral talks between the United States and North Korea. As I told President Trump, no, we won't go back another time to a series of negotiation and I hope we can work this out harmoniously and peacefully within my career.
JC: You told everybody that you wanted to go back, and you were willing to go back to all kinds of global headlights. Does it indicate or do you believe that we are some say the most dangerous point since the Korean War?
PC: I think we're at the most dangerous point since the Cold War. The nuclear could destroy the entire world's population. And my hope and my expectation is that we can find a way to resolve differences without having to use nuclear weapons. And, of course, China has a major role to play in this potential negotiation. I think China should do whatever it possibly can, to encourage both the United States and also North Korea to have good faith peace talks so that we can understand each other better, so that the dreams of both countries to remain peace can be realized.
JC: People often refer to you as Jimmy Carter, the President. You are also Jimmy Carter, the husband, the father, the grandfather, the person who has built homes for people who need the most. You're not just a political leader. You are a moral statesman. What's it take to all the heads of states and governments who may be listening now, what does it take to become not just a respected leader but one who is loved?
PC: I think, first of all, to tell you the truth, when you make a statement you should make sure that this is an accurate statement so that people have confidence and trust in you. The second thing is to set high goals for yourself and for the people that you serve. When I was inaugurated President, I promised to keep my country at peace, and we would be a champion of human rights. And I kept those two promises and we never fought a bullet or launched missile when I was President. And also, we were known around the world as a champion of human rights at the time. One of the things that I want to do is not only to keep my own country at peace but also to bring peace to other countries as well. So we were able to negotiate between Egypt and Israel who had been at war over two thousand years, and we brought peace to them, but we were also able to work very harmoniously with Deng Xiaoping in bringing new understanding and mutual respect and friendship between our two countries. I'm very proud of that achievement.
JC: I have one last question. President Carter, the world has asked so much of you, what do you ask of us?
PC: Well what I want from Chinese people is to stay as friends with mutual respect with the United States. We are the most powerful countries on earth. China's becoming even more powerful as years go by. And if our two countries can find a way to understand each other, to share responsibilities with each other, to try to maintain peace and promote human rights to do away with social inequities, to eliminate poverty, to educate our people, to give good health to those in poor communities. That's what I would like to see more in my life. That is complete harmony and friendship, and mutual respect between China and United States of America.
JC: President Carter, we thank you for everything you've done and we also we wish you and Mrs. Carter the very best.
PC: Thank you very much and the same to you.