People act as key links in Sino-US relationship

By Zhang Yunbi and Hu Meidong (China Daily) 10:29, July 02, 2024

When it comes to securing steady, lasting progress in China-United States relations, "it boils down to listening to public opinion and responding to the people's aspirations", a former senior diplomat said.

Yang Wanming, who is president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, told China Daily in a recent interview that "the more frequently the people of the two countries interact with each other, the more solid the foundation of public opinion for the development of China-US relations will be".

Looking back on history, he said that every pivotal moment in the China-US relationship was made possible by the people of the two countries, who made concerted efforts to work toward the same goal.

The enduring friendship and goodwill between the two peoples "have been the foundation and source of strength for the development of China-US relations", he said.

President Xi Jinping has always attached great importance to, supported, and encouraged China-US people-to-people exchanges, Yang said, noting that Xi not only attended a welcoming banquet held by friendly groups and individuals in San Francisco in November but also delivered a heartwarming speech.

"He affectionately recounted friendly stories of his interactions with the American people, and he used the word 'people' more than 60 times in his speech," Yang said.

Over the past 45 years, since the establishment of China-US diplomatic relations, there have been frequent and close exchanges between the people of the two countries, covering a wide range of fields. This has brought "substantial benefits "to the people of both countries, Yang said.

Demonstrating how much he values youth exchanges, Xi visited schools in the US and wrote letters to students to encourage more US youths to learn Chinese and understand China, "sowing a large number of seeds of friendship", Yang added.

In 1985, Xi, who was then secretary of the Communist Party of China Zhengding county committee in Hebei province, led a five-person delegation to the US state of Iowa for a two-week trip that included visiting farms, feed suppliers, and grain-processing companies.

"The story about him and his old friends from Iowa... is time-honored and widely celebrated," Yang said, adding that the anecdotal account was also profoundly enlightening.

Last year, Xi unveiled in San Francisco the plan to invite a total of 50,000 young people from the US for visits and exchanges in China over the next five years.

In recent months, many US students have come to China, including those from Cascade Elementary School in Utah, Muscatine High School in Iowa, Columbia University, the University of Virginia and Stanford University.

As part of its efforts to fulfill the youth exchange plan at the subnational level, Yang's association — a flagship Chinese organization working on public diplomacy — co-hosted an event titled Bond with Kuliang: 2024 China-US Youth Festival, which was held last week in Fuzhou, Fujian province. The event gathered more than 200 young people from the US to meet with more than 300 Chinese peers.

The association plans to host in China a few more student delegations from reputable US schools, colleges, and universities this year, Yang said. These guests "will have exchanges and interactions with national ministries and commissions, university experts, local officials, and Chinese peers on topics such as China-US ties, China's history and culture, and the path of development", he said.

Yang said his association has invited a 190-member student delegation from 14 schools across seven US states to visit China. It will further encourage young people in both countries to collectively act as a bridge in China-US relations and establish more contacts and exchanges, in order to "reduce misunderstandings and stereotypes ...and build up friendships and a rational perception", he said.

As this year also marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of his association, Yang said the organization looks to write more chapters on people-to-people friendship and cooperation.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


Related Stories