The recently announced date for President George W. Bush's visit to China coincidentally falls on the same day of the world-shaking event occurred 30 years ago. On February 21, 1972, President Richard M. Nixon flew across the Pacific Ocean by the "Air Force No.1 and landed on Beijing Airport, thus opening up a new, historic page in the history of China-US relations.
It is believed that in arranging the date for the first formal China visit the US President is to pay in the new century, the advisory body of both sides deliberately chose this memorable date. Maybe this is a kind of hint to the outside world, it both reviews the past and presages the future. So, it is most likely that the US side first fixed this date and then set the timetable for the president's visits to Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK).
Thirty years have elapsed very quickly, the historical giants, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Nixon, who broke the 20-year-old hard ice through joint efforts in that year, had all passed away long ago, they left the valuable legacy of China-US conciliation to the posterity. They had just taken the first step, without which, however, there would have not been the China-US relations of today, much less the frequent contacts between personnel of the two countries, the journey by Chinese students to the United States for study, the entry of McDonald's and Coca-Cola into China, still less an annual trade volume of US$80 billion.
Today in the new century, as we review the 30-year course of Sino-US ties, we want to know whether Sino-US relationship has moved forward or backward. Sometimes the divergent opinions would give people misconception, making it seem that Chinese-American confrontation has completely covered up Sino-US cooperation, this is contrary to the facts over the past 30 years. Since the age of Nixon, previous US presidents Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton had, without exception, embarked on their road to Beijing; on the heels of Deng Xiaoping, other Chinese leaders Li Xiannian, Yang Shangkun and Jiang Zemin had entered the White House in succession. It can be said that top leaders of the two countries have always controlled the general situation regarding Sino-US relations. These far-sighted leaders have ensured that Chinese-American relations do not deviate from the sound track in most time of the 30-year period.
Naturally, no one would forget that there have all along been different views and divergences between China and the United States. An absolute sameness of views would be a strange thing for the two countries which are big and respectively represent the civilizations of the East and the West. As a matter of fact, there exist many common points in the civilizations and cultures of the two countries. Over the past 30 years, China has learned much from the United States, the United States, in turn, has also gained many benefits from China. All these are indisputable facts.
In making a breakthrough in Sino-US relations in that year, Nixon, besides using the "mysterious weapon" of sending Henry Kissinger to pay a secret visit to China, spent a lot of energy in persuading the right-wingers to support his action; in China which was undergoing the "cultural revolution, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, in order to shake off China's international status of isolation, resolutely decided to invite President Nixon to visit China.
With the historic handshakes that occurred 30 years ago, the way the American youth of today view China, and the way the new generation of China view the United States are a far cry from their elder generation.
Bush's attending the APEC summit in Shanghai last year was the first time that a US president left his own country for the occasion after the "September 11" incident; Bush's upcoming China visit is also his first "working visit" to take place after the "September 11" terrorist attack on the United States. It also shows China's special position in the US diplomatic pattern, particularly China's important role played on the anti-terrorist front. Combating terrorism and economic and trade relations will be the main topics for the meeting to take place between Bush and Jiang Zemin. In addition, the two sides will inevitably have an exchange of opinions on such questions as Taiwan, the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) treaty and the regional situations. With regard to regional situations, China has the potential influences on issues concerning Afghanistan, India-Pakistan conflicts and the Korean Peninsula. With regard to economic and trade relations, both sides seem to pay much attention to this issue, trade between China and the United States is vitally important to both the US economy and the Chinese economy.
The 30 years have been an eventful period in China-US relations. The Sino-US relationship of today has gone out of its infantile period and into the period of maturity. China-US relations with a history of 30 years should logically be more mature, sturdy and rational than before. This is the hope not only of the people of the two countries, but also of the friends of China and the United States.
(People's Daily February 6, 2002)