Question: What role will China play in the 21st century?
Jimmy Carter: Well China changed in many ways because of a decision I made to normalize diplomatic relations between the United States and China after 35 years of estrangement. Yet at the same time China announced that on December 15, 1978, they also announced they would have a complete reform within China and in China’s relationship with the outside world. And so since that date, January 1, 1979, China has expanded its freedom within its country and also has been very aggressive in their foreign policy.
So now no matter where you go in the world—in any country in Africa or Latin America and other place—you will find that China is very deeply involved in the affairs of that country. So China, I think, is now destined to be one of the great powers, not only in trade and commerce—they have now exceeded Japan in that respect—but also a great power in international affairs. And I don’t believe that China, in my lifetime or maybe my children’s lifetime, be equal to the United States, militarily speaking. But they are very careful to avoid any engagement in war. They are basically a peaceful country, which gives them another advantage over the United States when we are much more inclined to go to war for various reasons.
So, China is going to be a competitor in the future, I hope it will be a friendly relationship between the United States and China.
Recorded November 30, 2010
Interviewed by Andrea Useem
Produced by Jonathan Fowler