, SHANGHAI, Apr 8 – Former US president George W. Bush said on Thursday that Americans should not fear China\’s rise and should look for the opportunities presented by the growth of the world\’s third-largest economy.
Bush said, however, that in pursuing stronger ties with Beijing, the United States should not compromise its principles, such as freedom of religion.
"Some people say that we all worry about it – the growth of China," Bush told a financial forum in Shanghai. "They look at China\’s growth and say: \’This is cause for worry\’."
"I don\’t believe that. I view it as an opportunity. I view it as a chance to develop a win-win strategy," Bush said.
The former US leader was speaking at a time when relations between the two countries have been strained by arguments over Tibet, Taiwan, Internet censorship and the value of the Chinese yuan.
"I don\’t believe when you get in a relationship you have to give up your values. When I met with Chinese leaders I expressed my values. I believe a country that encourages freedom of religion is a country that is going to be a more peaceful country," he said.
China\’s officially atheist communist rulers strictly suppressed religion for three decades after coming to power in 1949.
The past three decades have seen a flourishing of many forms of religion but the government continues to maintain tight controls, fearful of the potential challenge to its rule from any kind of large organisation.
Worshippers are meant to frequent only state-sanctioned churches. Bush attended such a service during a visit in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics.