Inject more warmth into China-U.S. relations with peoples’ friendship

World Today

Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Xie Feng delivered remarks at the “My China Album: Sharing Our Stories about China” event. Here’s the full text of his speech. 

Dear friends old and new,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening!

Welcome to this gathering of friends tonight. Many of you have witnessed and participated in the friendly interactions between Chinese and American peoples, and made important contribution to China-U.S. relations. Let me first pay tribute and express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you!

As President Xi Jinping said, “The Chinese people value friendship. We will never forget our old friends.” Since 2019, the Chinese Embassy and Consulates General in the United States have co-hosted with China Daily the “My China Album” event, capturing precious moments of our peoples’ friendship with photos and videos. For the fifth edition, we have collected over 100 stories, and compiled them into this “China album”.

The album has recorded the history of our peoples fighting shoulder to shoulder. In the war of resistance against Japanese aggression and the world anti-fascist war, Chinese and American peoples stood up for peace and justice together. From General Joseph Stilwell, General Claire Lee Chennault and the Flying Tigers who headed to the battlefield in China, to the Chinese who risked their lives to save American pilots and the nearly 20,000 Chinese Americans who joined the U.S. military, our two peoples forged an iron-clad friendship amid the trials of blood and fire. 

When Flying Tigers veterans and their descendants visited China last year, they received a rock-star welcome. And the moment they sang Auld Lang Syne with Chinese kids, many people were moved to tears. Today, we are most honored to be joined by one of the veterans, the 103-year-old Mr. Harry Moyer. Let’s wish him good health and happiness, and may the spirit of Flying Tigers live on forever!

The album has recorded the journey of our peoples reaching out to each other. One of the participants in the event this year is Ambassador Winston Lord, a member of the U.S. delegation on the historic trip to China in 1972. The 22-year estrangement and confrontation could not hold back the aspiration of our peoples to know each other and be friends. With all those “handshakes across the Pacific”, our peoples have broken the ice and developed mutual affinity.

In 1985, Mr. Xi Jinping, then a county party secretary in his early 30s, made a visit to the United States. He was treated with warm hospitality by the Dvorchaks, Ms. Sarah Lande and others in Iowa. When Mr. Xi revisited the United States as Vice President in 2012, he braved snow to make a special trip to Muscatine for a reunion with his Iowan friends. Last November, President Xi got together with Ms. Lande, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn and many other old friends in San Francisco. That was a heartwarming sight to behold. 

Such stories abound. Last summer, the “Kuliang Friends” including Ms. Elyn MacInnis attended the “Bond with Kuliang: 2023 China-U.S. People-to-People Friendship Forum” in Fujiang Province. Together with Chinese friends, they planted two osmanthus trees, passing on the century-long ties from generation to generation. Such friendship goes beyond differences, transcends mountains and seas, and defies time and space.

The album has also recorded the legacy of our peoples learning from one another. In September 1973, the Philadelphia Orchestra toured China, the first American orchestra to do so since the founding of new China. Musicians from both countries played the Chinese orchestral piece The Moon’s Reflection on the Second Spring, which became a cherished memory for many. Last November, at the concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of the tour, the familiar melody again resonated across the hall with the performance of musicians from both sides, a new chapter in the five-decade-long friendship.

As envoys of goodwill, giant pandas have brought joy to many American people over the past five decades. Our cooperation on panda conservation has been fruitful. Together, we have successfully bred 17 panda cubs, helping to take pandas off from the endangered list.

Among the guests today, we have an American scholar who is fascinated with Chinese tea and committed to promoting the tea culture; martial arts lovers who went on an incredible journey to China to learn from esteemed masters; students who shined bright on the stage of the “Chinese Bridge” competition; and a young Chinese American documenting multicultural stories through the lens.

Tender yet powerful, culture opens up windows for Chinese and American peoples to understand each other, and builds bridges between our hearts.

Dear friends,

The foundation of the China-U.S. relationship was laid by our peoples, its door was opened by our peoples, its stories are written by our peoples, and its future will be created by our peoples. It is the reaching out to each other by our peoples that has time and again brought China-U.S. relations from low ebbs back onto the right track.

Currently, China-U.S. relations are still facing serious challenges. We need to forge a closer bond between our peoples and open our hearts to each other, so as to inject more warmth and impetus into this relationship.

It is important to develop a right perception toward each other, and be friends rather than rivals. If the China-U.S. relationship is a tree, then how we perceive each other is the root. When the root is strong, the tree will yield sweet fruits. But if the root is improperly planted, the fruits will be sour. 

From day 1 of our engagement, China and the United States have been aware that we are dealing with a country with a very different history, culture, social system and development path. But that has not prevented us from breaking the ice, establishing diplomatic ties and deepening cooperation based on common interests, still less has it impeded the friendly exchanges between our peoples. So in the 21st century, why should we ever shut off from each other and turn back the wheel of history? 

Both our peoples are great peoples. Both want peace, prosperity, cooperation and a better life. China is willing to be a friend and partner of the United States. The stories of Iowa and Kuliang have shown once and again that our two peoples can forge a profound friendship despite all our differences in system, culture and language. In the era of war, we fought side by side; in the era of peace, we should also be each other’s partner. 

We have only the responsibility to jointly uphold peace, and no single reason to incite confrontation. Seeing the other as a primary strategic competitor, the most consequential geopolitical challenge and a pacing threat, in disregard of our extensive common interests, our peoples’ will for exchanges and cooperation and the world’s expectation for a stable China-U.S. relationship, would only push our two countries toward antagonism, plunge the world into division and turmoil, and ultimately lead to “self-fulfilling prophesies”.

It is important to speak up for China-U.S. relations, undaunted by the chilling effect. The goodwill between our peoples should not be hijacked by the so-called “political correctness”. Nor should the atmosphere of people-to-people exchanges be poisoned by the China-bashing rhetoric. We hope our two peoples will make more visits and contacts with each other.

For this, China has rolled out a series of measures, including providing walk-in visa application services, significantly optimizing the visa policy for travelers from within the United States, and making payment easier for American visitors. With our joint efforts, the number of direct flights has grown from 20 per week in early 2023 to 100 per week today. The 14th China-U.S. Tourism Leadership Summit will be held soon. And a new round of cooperation on panda conservation is gathering momentum. 

Meanwhile, obstacles remain. Before the pandemic, more than 300 flights flew between China and the United States every week, and over 5 million mutual visits were made every year. Compared to that, the flights now are still far from enough, and the tickets are too expensive. The China travel advisory has deterred many American friends from visiting China, and the groundless harassment and deportation of Chinese students have left our people deeply concerned. So friends, we count on each of you here to exert your influence, and encourage the U.S. side to work with China in the same direction, clear barriers with concrete actions, and spark a new boom in people-to-people exchanges.

It is important to stay undistracted by domestic politics, and avoid creating new hurdles for China-U.S. relations. This year is an election year for the United States. Non-interference is the tradition of China’s foreign policy. We will not interfere in the U.S. presidential election. Meanwhile, we firmly oppose any attempt to manipulate China-related issues, exploit China-U.S. relations and damage China’s interests during the elections.

Recently, though, the U.S. side has used its Section 301 tariff review in an irresponsible way, and further stepped up tariffs on imports of electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries, solar cells, critical minerals, semiconductors and other products from China. This is protectionism in the name of fair competition. The real aim is to contain China’s new energy sectors, hamper China’s high-quality development, and get advantage in the elections by competing to be tougher on China. 

But will it work? The fact is, six years after the U.S. side started the trade war, its trade deficit has surged, not declined, by $200 billion, and rising prices have driven up inflation. At the end of the day, it is American customers who are forced to pay the cost, American companies who suffer losses, and the international economic and trade order that gets rattled. Backpedaling in a globalized era will find no support. Escalating trade war, industrial war and tech war cannot stop China’s development, and will only backfire. 

The accusation of so-called “China’s overcapacity” is untenable. Comparative advantage is a basic tenet of economics. In an open market economy, countries leverage their respective strength in the international division of labor, and seek mutual benefit through global trade. If a country is accused of causing overcapacity simply because its products and services are high-quality, efficient and competitive, or because it produces more than what it needs for itself, then what is the point about international trade? 

The reason why China’s new energy products are so popular lies in continuous technological innovation, well-developed industrial and supply chains, sufficient market competition and our people’s hard work. In the global green transition, Chinese electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and photovoltaic products are much-needed high-quality capacity. They have not only met China’s domestic demand, but also helped to address the shortage in the supply of new energy products globally, and contributed significantly to energy conservation and emissions reduction in the world. Why should such high-quality capacity which benefits all be contained?

It is important to bring our youths together to carry on China-U.S. friendship. The future of this relationship depends on the youth. When our younger generations get along well, there will be a brighter future for China-U.S. relations. Last November, President Xi announced that China is ready to invite 50,000 young Americans to China on exchange and study programs in the next five years. We have set up a YES program — the Young Envoys Scholarship to this end. Over the recent months, kids from Cascade Elementary School in Utah visited China. Children from Muscatine High School, Lincoln High School and Steilacoom High School also went. So did students from Columbia University, the University of Virginia and Stanford University. They climbed the Great Wall, learned how to make a Chinese knot, fell in love with hotpot, and became friends with Chinese peers. For many of them, this could be the start of a lifelong friendship.

It has warmed our hearts that many old friends have pitched in to lay the foundation of friendship between the youths. For instance, the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation has launched the “Flying Tigers Friendship Schools and Youth Leadership Programs”. Ms. Lande personally facilitated the trip by the Muscatine High School delegation to China. We sincerely hope that more young people will be part of the efforts, and become the new-generation ambassadors of goodwill between our two countries.

Dear friends,

During his visit to China in 1972, President Richard Nixon gifted the Chinese people four California redwood saplings. Half a century on, they have grown into lush trees, just like the friendship between our peoples. Let’s jointly write more stories of goodwill in the new era, and tenderly nurture the tree of our friendship, so that it may thrive and stay evergreen, to the benefit of both our countries and the world!

Thank you very much.