KYOTO, Japan – President Bush prodded China on Wednesday to grant more political freedom to its 1.3 billion people and held up rival Taiwan as an example of a society that has successfully moved from repression to democracy.
In remarks sure to rile Beijing, Bush said, "Modern Taiwan is free and democratic and prosperous. By embracing freedom at all levels, Taiwan has delivered prosperity to its people and created a free and democratic Chinese society."
Bush made his remarks in the text of a speech that was to be the cornerstone address of his Asian trip. From Japan, he will continue to South Korea, China and Mongolia.
The remarks were released in advance of his speech.
Trying to solidify America's influence in Asia in the face of China's rising economy and military might, Bush said Beijing's determination to strengthen its economy must be accompanied by more freedoms for its people
"As China reforms its economy," the president said, "its leaders are finding that once the door to freedom is opened even a crack, it cannot be closed. As the people of China grow in prosperity, their demands for political freedom will grow as well."
Bush said Chinese President Hu Jintao has asserted that his vision of "peaceful development" will make the Chinese people more prosperous.
"I have pointed out that the people of China want more freedom to express themselves ... to worship without state control ... and to print Bibles and other sacred texts without state control," Bush said.