I wish to emphasize here that the establishment and development of the socialist system in China has enabled some ethnic groups to leap over certain stages of social development For example, until the democratic reform of 1959, Tibet was a feudal-serfdom, a theocracy with a heavy tint of slavery. The serfs, bond servants to their masters, had no human rights whatsoever to speak of. It was our democratic reform that emancipated some one million serfs and slaves through peaceful means. This, similar to the liberation of black slaves in American history, represented a great social change and advance. Historical advances as such cannot be rolled back. With the support of the Central Government and the rest of the country, today's Tibet is developing prosperously and people there are living and working in happiness and contentment.
The basic goal of our foreign policy is to maintain and promote world peace and stability. China is, and will always be, a staunch force working for the maintenance of world peace. China's defense policy is of a defensive nature and our military spending is the lowest among major countries. In addition to the unilateral troop reduction by one million men in the eighties, China has recently announced that it will cut back its military force by another 500,000 men in the next three years. As China becomes more and more developed with its people leading a better life, it can only promote world peace and stability rather than pose a threat to anyone. China will never seek hegemony even after it becomes a developed country in the future. On the contrary, should development elude China and its 1.2 billion people remain in poverty, should the country fail to maintain stability or even be plunged into social turmoil, this, as Mr. Deng Xiaoping once pointed out, would represent not only bad luck for China but also a disaster of global proportion.
With the advent of a new century, mankind has found itself at a historical juncture. Opting for peace and stability and promoting cooperation and development, this has become the theme of our times. Though factors making for durable peace are on the rise, the world is not free from troubles. World peace remains threatened as the old unfair and irrational international economic order is yet to be fundamentally transformed. Local conflicts break out from time to time. Environmental degradation, arms proliferation, international crime, terrorism and other cross-border issues have presented new challenges to mankind. People from all lands are expecting the 21st century as a century full of hopes. This historic subject is now put before the leaders of all countries, including those of China and the United States.
Yesterday, President Clinton and I held talks where we had an in depth exchange of views on how to establish a constructive and strategic partnership between China and the United States oriented towards the 21st century. The meeting yielded important achievements. This marks a good beginning in the establishment and development of such a partnership.
The journey China-U.S. relations have gone through in the past fifty years or so has not been smooth sailing. It was punctuated with estrangement and contacts, confrontation and cooperation, friction and harmony. A review of the past tells us that further progress in China-U.S. relations hinges on correctly understanding our common interests and properly handling our differences. We all desire to maintain peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region and the world at large. We all want to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We all endeavor to promote the establishment of an open and sound international trade regime. We all feel the need to deal with a multitude of transitional issues of common concern. And we are all interested in increased exchanges and cooperation in wide ranging areas. As permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, China and the United States have on their shoulders a crucial responsibility for peace and security in the world.