Developing bond between people to boost China-US relations

BEIJING: On social media platform X, pictures capturing recent excursions of students from US state of Washington to iconic Chinese landmarks like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, as well as their engagement in Tai Chi practice, have sparked vibrant online conversations.

The latest visit was part of an exchange and study program that would invite 50,000 American youths to China over the next five years, an initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his US visit last November.

Nearly concurrent with the students’ tour, representatives from the US business, strategic and academic communities also visited China late March. Their visit reached its apex on Wednesday when Xi met with them.

To revive China-US relations from their current challenges, the Chinese president has placed his faith in the American people. Apart from meetings with prominent figures such as Henry Kissinger, Bill Gates, Senator Chuck Schumer, and California Governor Gavin Newsom, he has maintained correspondence with ordinary Americans like the Flying Tigers and US students through letters and has consistently advocated for increased people-to-people exchanges between the two nations on various occasions.

His dedication to fostering exchanges between the Chinese and Americans offers insight into the fundamental bedrock of China-US relations: the enduring friendship between the people of both nations.

That was also one of the key messages Xi conveyed during his meeting with representatives of US businesses, strategic and academic communities on Wednesday.

Members of a delegation of high school students from the US state of Washington visit Wudang Mountain, a sanctuary for the Taoism martial art, in central China's Hubei Province, March 22, 2024. PHOTO: XINHUA

Members of a delegation of high school students from the US state of Washington visit Wudang Mountain, a sanctuary for the Taoism martial art, in central China’s Hubei Province, March 22, 2024. PHOTO: XINHUA

Noting that the history of China-US relations is one of friendly exchanges between the two peoples, Xi expressed the hope that people from all sectors of Chinese and American societies will have more mutual visits and exchanges, expand common ground and mutual trust, overcome various distractions, and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation.

Despite the ebbs and flows in the trajectory of China-US relations, the enduring exchanges between their people have offered distinct contributions to the advancement of bilateral ties.

These interactions, spanning cultural, educational, and economic domains, have nurtured mutual understanding and cooperation between the two sides.

Furthermore, economic interactions between businesses and individuals contribute to the growth of trade and investment, benefiting both nations’ economies.

The importance of maintaining and strengthening these exchanges cannot be overstated. In fact, it is the reaching out to each other by the two peoples that has time and again brought China-US relations from a low ebb back onto the right track.

Just as noted by David Lampton, professor emeritus of the School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States will play a bigger role in the future.

Members of a delegation of high school students from the US state of Washington and students from Shenzhen Nanshan Foreign Language Senior High School plant trees at Qianhai Bay in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, March 25, 2024. PHOTO: XINHUA

Members of a delegation of high school students from the US state of Washington and students from Shenzhen Nanshan Foreign Language Senior High School plant trees at Qianhai Bay in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong Province, March 25, 2024. PHOTO: XINHUA

Recognising the important role of grassroots connections in fortifying and advancing bilateral relations, Xi and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, concurred during their meeting in San Francisco to roll out more measures to facilitate travels and exchanges, including increasing direct passenger flights, holding a high-level dialogue on tourism, and streamlining visa application procedures. Since then, people-to-people exchanges between the two countries have recovered.

However, despite this positive trend, the deeply flawed perception among certain US politicians of China as a long-term strategic competitor and the “most consequential geopolitical challenge” continues to influence Washington’s policies.

As a result, restrictions on the movement of personnel between China and the United States persist, severely hampering normal friendly exchanges between the two sides.

Even more troubling, US politicians and their media allies persist in vilifying China and framing it as a threat. This rhetoric not only perpetuates negative stereotypes but also cultivates a toxic atmosphere of suspicion and animosity towards China among the American public.

During the meeting on Wednesday, Xi invoked a Chinese proverb likening the challenge of doing good to climbing a steep hill, where a single misstep can lead to a rapid descent.

Revitalising the strained China-US relations requires arduous efforts from both sides, and bolstering grassroots connections serves as a critical stride in this journey. It is through fostering people-to-people interactions and facilitating cultural exchanges that the two nations can genuinely lay the groundwork for mutual trust and cooperation across the board.

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