On September 3, 60 Minutes aired an interview with China’s dictator, Jiang Zemin, who arrived here the next day to attend a UN meeting and meet with American business leaders. Not having given an extended interview to an American TV correspondent in ten years, Jiang wanted to polish his image for his trip. He invited CBS News to interview him in China, and Mike Wallace got the assignment.
Wallace introduced Jiang as one of the three “paramount leaders” that China has had in the last 50 years. “Paramount leader” is a euphemism for dictator. Jiang’s official title is president. Wallace said Jiang has been in charge since his predecessor, Deng Xiao-ping, “chose him to restore civility after the brutality of Tiananmen Square.” Restoring civility meant hunting down and punishing the brave students who had led the Tiananmen Square demonstrations for freedom and democracy.
Saying that Jiang wanted Americans to get a more favorable impression of China, Wallace was helpful. Noting that Jiang had said he was willing to answer any questions, he began the interview, as aired, with a softball. Noting that a Chinese paper had recently said the U.S. was a threat to world peace, Wallace asked Jiang if he felt that way. Jiang, who smiled a lot, said that the U.S. “more often than not it tends to overestimate itself and its position in the world,” but he added that he wanted “to convey a nice message to the American people” and that he would refrain from using too many tough words. Wallace raised a sensitive subject, the fact that China is “the last major Communist dictatorship in the world.” Jiang, a proponent of Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat who wears the mantle of Mao Tse-tung, the world’s biggest mass murderer, insisted that it was a mistake to call him a dictator. He asked Wallace to define the word. Wallace gave this clumsy answer: “A dictator is someone who forcibly, whether it’s free press, or free religion or free private enterprise… father knows best and if you get in the way of father, father will take care of you.” As he said that, he ran his finger across his throat, simulating a knife. Jiang said this was absurd and that he is just one member of the standing committee of the Politburo whose decisions are all unanimous. For fifty years China’s dictators have made countless disastrous decisions because they are not accountable to the people they rule. The price has been millions of lives lost or ruined and enormously stunted cultural and economic development. By failing to bring this up, Mike Wallace let down the side of freedom.
Wallace asked Jiang what he wanted to say to the presidential candidates with respect to U. S- China relations. “I have a lot of friends among leaders of both parties, Republicans and Democrats,” Jiang replied. Wallace shot back with an embarrassing question, “So you give money to both their campaigns?” Jiang responded, “Are you joking? We have never done such things.” In our next commentary we will discuss how Mike Wallace flunked out by not bringing up the facts that proved that was a lie.