by Diao Daming
In reply to two letters from the American people, Chinese President Xi Jinping has underscored the significance of people-to-people exchanges in developing China-U.S. relations.
Since the meeting of the two heads of state in Bali, Indonesia, last November, both China and the United States have sent a positive signal, underlined by their commitment to promoting dialogue, strengthening cooperation, and mending and stabilizing bilateral ties.
In a meeting with Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in June, Xi said the foundation of China-U.S. relations lies in the people. “We have always placed our hope on the American people and wish all the best for the friendship between the two peoples,” Xi said.
Today, the China-U.S. relationship carries profound global impact. The two countries, the world’s two biggest economies, represent the largest developing country and the largest developed country, respectively. Additionally, both hold permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.
A stable China-U.S. relationship serves the national interests of both countries and benefits the citizens. Promoting people-to-people exchanges and communication meets the two peoples’ aspirations for improving their well-being, contributes to the development of both economies and societies, and answers the global call for stability and prosperity.
Therefore, it is imperative for the two governments to effectively manage and stabilize bilateral relations, while both peoples to engage in closer communication, increase mutual understanding and advocate for more people-to-people dialogues and cooperation across various fields.
Historically, people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States in diverse areas have pioneered political interactions between the two governments. A notable example is the story of “Ping-Pong Diplomacy,” which thawed China-U.S. relations over 50 years ago.
In April 1971, the U.S. table tennis team accepted the invitation from their Chinese counterpart to visit China at the conclusion of the 31st World Table Tennis Championships in Nagoya, Japan, marking the first visit by a U.S. group since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
The “Ping-Pong Diplomacy,” which played a significant role in breaking the ice of China-U.S. relations, paved the way for extensive communication and cooperation in education, culture, technology and health between the two countries, a legacy that endures to this day.
In June 2023, a China-U.S. forum dedicated to encouraging and extending friendship between the two peoples was held in the city of Fuzhou in the Chinese province of Fujian.
The event, known as “Bond with Kuliang: 2023 China-U.S. People-to-People Friendship Forum,” was inspired by the story of Elizabeth Gardner, an American woman who traveled all the way from the United States to fulfill her late husband’s final wish to revisit the hometown of his childhood in Kuliang, China.
In the United States, descendants of American families who once lived in Kuliang formed the group “Kuliang Friends” to carry forward and revitalize the friendship between their predecessors and their Chinese peers.
Today, an unbiased and rational perception of each other by the youth of the two nations is essential in building a “breakwater” in public opinion to guard against a disruptive change in China-U.S. relations, especially at a time when certain U.S. politicians are starting blatant smear campaigns against China and hyping up the Cold War mentality.
The world is wide enough for China and the United States to develop and prosper. The younger generation should recognize that upholding the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation is the right way for the two countries to get along and contribute to global stability and progress.
Editor’s note: Diao Daming is an associate professor of Renmin University of China.