Edward Snowden

Former US president Bill Clinton calls for mutual openness with China on spying

Ex-president says countries should build on 'skyscraper' relationship

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 5:09am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 10:57am

Washington and Beijing should be more open to each other on what and who they are spying on, former US president Bill Clinton said yesterday in a forum after a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"China and America should commit to tell the whole truth of the listening we are doing to each other," Clinton said at a forum organised by the financial magazine Caijing, adding the debate surrounding whistle-blower Edward Snowden at least had prompted everyone to start thinking about the balance between privacy and security.

"I don't think you can do it in a closet any more," he said. The Snowden case, he said, "made me think that we are on the verge of having the worst of all worlds: we'll have no security and no privacy."

Clinton, who was president from 1993 to 2001, made the remarks after meeting Xi earlier in the day. He applauded the reform resolutions formulated at the Communist Party's third plenum last week.

During their meeting, Xi said Sino-US relations had generally moved in the right direction.

"With the joint efforts of generations of Chinese and US leaders, our relationship has become a skyscraper. We need to work together to keep building it," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.

Xi also said as long as the two major powers respected each other and achieved win-win co-operation, bilateral ties would have broader prospects.

In the question-and-answer session in a Beijing hotel during the Caijing forum, Clinton also appeared to voice support for his wife to run for US president.

"I hope we have a woman president in my lifetime, and I think it would be a good thing for the world as well as for America," Clinton said.

His wife, Hillary Clinton, has not declared whether she will seek nomination to become a candidate for the Democratic Party. She stepped down earlier this year as US secretary of state.

Clinton said he had no idea if his wife would make a White House run as "there is no such thing as a sure thing in politics", but she was "the ablest public servant I have ever worked with".

"If that's what she wants to do, I will support her. But if she decides for whatever reason she doesn't, I will support that," said Clinton.

He also defended the US policy to focus on Asia, which his wife helped implement in the first Obama administration.

"It's not a move against China, it's a move to build a shared future ...That's what we call a shared prosperity," said Clinton.