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Beijing (AFP) – Former U.S. president Bill Clinton hopes there will be a woman in the White House in his lifetime and will support his wife Hillary in whatever she decides to do, he told a Chinese audience on Monday.

Hillary, who earlier this year stepped down as U.S. secretary of state, has not yet said whether she plans another presidential run after her failed 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination.

“I hope we have a woman president in my lifetime, and I think it would be a good thing for the world as well as for America,” Clinton said at a conference organised by the respected Chinese financial magazine Caijing.

“But I do not know if she’s going to run, and there is no such thing as a sure thing in politics,” he added.

In a question-and-answer session before a standing-room-only crowd in a Beijing hotel ballroom, Clinton, who was president from 1993 to 2001, was asked whether he envisages becoming a “first husband” in the future.

“You know, if I knew the answer to that, I couldn’t say,” he responded. “But I can give you an honest answer: I have no idea.”

He called his wife “the ablest public servant I have ever worked with” and said that he would support her whatever decision she makes on a White House run.

“If that’s what she wants to do, I will support her,” Clinton said. “But if she decides for whatever reason she doesn’t, I will support that,” he said.

He also added: “It’s very interesting for us; we still feel young and we still feel healthy,” he added, noting that compared with several decades ago, he believes his wife now is “less motivated… by a fear of failure.”

Clinton was in Beijing for meetings with China’s President Xi Jinping as well as to promote the work of his New York-based philanthropic organisation, the Clinton Foundation.

During his nearly hour-long remarks Clinton made no mention of current U.S. President Barack Obama, whose approval rating has reached an all-time low over a clumsy rollout of his signature health care overhaul.

Clinton did not criticize Edward Snowden, the fugitive U.S. former intelligence contractor who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after leaking thousands of classified documents about the vast U.S. global surveillance network.

American authorities are seeking to repatriate Snowden, who has been charged with three felonies in connection with the leaks.

Clinton said he believed it was “perfectly legitimate” for the U.S. government to search “big data pools… to see if there are patterns of communication between certain numbers or sites and others known to be in the possession of terrorist groups”.

But he went on: “The question is when, if ever, is the government justified in going beyond the patterns to listen to telephone calls, read emails, read text messages, and who’s supposed to decide that? Mr. Snowden obviously thought that it was excessive.”

The fact that Snowden was able to receive a top-secret security clearance despite having only been a contractor for several months “made me think that we are on the verge of having the worst of all worlds,” Clinton said.

“We’ll have no security and no privacy,” Clinton added.

“I think the U.S.  and China and everybody else, we’re going to have to be more upfront with each other and probably with our own people about what it is we’re looking for and listening to,” he said.

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