Promoting people-to-people exchanges puts right “first button” of China-U.S. relations


In the past few months, China-U.S. relations have shown signs of stabilization under the strategic guidance of the consensus reached by Chinese and U.S. heads of state during their meeting in San Francisco.

“Jointly promoting people-to-people exchanges” is an important part of the “San Francisco vision.” From the students of Muscatine High School joining exchange activities in Beijing, Hebei and Shanghai, to some 20 students from Lincoln High School and Steilacoom High School of the U.S. state of Washington visiting Beijing, Shiyan in Hubei province, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in Guangdong province, and to the members of U.S. business, strategic and academic communities paying a visit to China this spring, the increasing exchanges and interactions between people from both countries help accumulate consensus for the stable, healthy, and sustainable development of China-U.S. relations. 

The history of China-U.S. relations is one of friendly exchanges between the two peoples. Its existing chapters are written by the people, and the future will of course be created by the people.

In November last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at a welcome dinner hosted by friendly organizations in the United States. He said the foundation of China-U.S. relations was laid by the two peoples; the door of China-U.S. relations was opened by the two peoples; the stories of China-U.S. relations are written by the two peoples; the future of China-U.S. relations will be created by the two peoples.

He stressed the importance to galvanize the Chinese and American peoples into a strong force to renew China-U.S. friendship, advance China-U.S. relations, and make even greater contributions to world peace and development.

What he said articulated the foundation for the development of China-U.S. relationship as well as the future direction it should take.

China announced to invite 50,000 young Americans to China on exchange and study programs in the next five years. As “envoys of friendship” of these programs, high school students from the states of Iowa and Washington visiting China would help build a future-oriented bridge of understanding for the development of China-U.S. ties. 

After the students of Muscatine High School wrapped up their visit to China, they sent a letter to Xi to share with him their joy during their China trip and thank him for the invitation. 

Through their visits, the students from Lincoln High School and Steilacoom High School gained a more enriched and multi-dimensional understanding of China. After returning to the United States, they enthusiastically shared their experiences, observations, and feelings from their time in China with family, friends, classmates, and the media, saying friendship was the most precious thing they gained in China.

The stable, healthy and sustainable development of China-U.S. relations cannot be achieved without the joint efforts and sincere commitment of people from all walks of life in both countries. 

Many American business executives traveled to Beijing to attend the China Development Forum 2024. Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, came to China to promote new products. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, witnessed the opening of Apple’s largest retail store in Asia in Shanghai. The frequent visits to China by members of the American business community have vividly underscored that the China-U.S. relationship is one of the most consequential bilateral relationships in the world.

Members of U.S. business, strategic and academic communities believe that the U.S. and Chinese economies are closely interdependent, and the two countries can only achieve their own development and prosperity through peaceful coexistence.

They said the United States and China must cooperate and find the right way to get along, which is very important for both countries and the world. 

“The economic and trade relations between the two countries are exceptionally important. Decoupling is definitely not the right path. We should continue to seek cooperation in order to achieve a win-win outcomes,” some of them noted.

These remarks clearly indicate that China and the United States share extensive common interests. The so-called “Thucydides trap” is not inevitable. Pursuing “decoupling and severing supply chains” under the guise of “de-risking” does not serve the common interests of both sides.

Over the past couple of years, the China-U.S. relationship experienced some setbacks and serious challenges, from which lessons should be learned. The ups and downs of the development of China-U.S. ties prove that the issue of strategic perception is always fundamental to China-U.S. relationship, just like the first button of a shirt that must be put right.

To stabilize and improve the China-U.S. relationship, a right strategic perception must be jointly developed. China always believe that two big countries like China and the United States should not cut off their ties or turn their back on each other, still less slide into conflict or confrontation. The two countries should respect each other, coexist in peace and pursue win-win cooperation.

The United States should not insist on positioning China, which is committed to peaceful development, as its primary competitor or most significant geopolitical challenge. It should not insist on suppressing China’s high-tech development or depriving China of its legitimate right to development. 

Instead, the United States should work with China in the same direction to jointly explore the right way for them to get along. They should jointly and effectively manage their differences, promote mutually beneficial cooperation, provide more support and facilitation for people-to-people exchanges, and shoulder major-country responsibilities for world peace and development.

China-U.S. relationship cannot go back to the old days, but it can embrace a brighter future. The two countries should work to meet the common expectations of the people of both countries and the people of the world. They must value peace, prioritize stability, uphold credibility, and practically implement the consensus reached by the two heads of state. 

They need to strengthen dialogue in a mutually respectful way, manage differences prudently, advance cooperation in the spirit of mutual benefit, and step up coordination on international affairs in a responsible way, so as to bring more benefits to the two peoples and inject more stability into the world.

(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy and international affairs.)


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