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Cultural Exchange Bridges China and US

Cultural exchanges between China and the United States for the past 30 years have been regarded as successful efforts that create heart-to-heart dialogue between the two countries.

With US President George W. Bush scheduled for a working visit to China Feb. 21-22, experts predict the Sino-US cultural ties will deepen in the new century.

When Chinese acrobats entered the US territory in 1972 as the first group of cultural envoys since 1949, the then US President Richard Nixon had just ended his ice-breaking visit to China.

The first impressions ordinary Americans had of the people of New China were drawn from dazzling gymnastic ability and breathtaking bicycling skills. An impressed President Nixon and the First Lady, Pat Nixon, later met with the Chinese artists.

"Sino-American cultural exchanges are important for consolidating bilateral ties, strengthening the two peoples' mutual understanding and developing each other's unique cultures," Chinese Minister of Culture Sun Jiazheng said.

Over the years, bilateral cultural ties have embodied the theme of East-to-West blending.

  • In 1973, an audience of 8,800 Chinese were overwhelmed by a performance of Beethoven's masterpieces by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

  • And in 1979 when Sino-US diplomatic ties were established, a contract on cultural exchanges was among the first three official documents signed, forming the framework of the governmental and non-governmental cultural relationships between the two countries.

  • A total of six executive plans also guaranteed the sound and forward-thinking development of Sino-American cultural exchanges based on mutual benefit, reciprocity and equal cooperation.

  • The same year, Chinese and American artists joined hands for the first time on the Chinese stage, when well-known lutist Liu Dehai and the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed the "Lute Concerto" for a Chinese audience, including late Chinese leaders Deng Xiaoping and Soong Ching Ling.

  • Recalling the close cooperation with the 183 American artists and the thunderous applause they received, Liu said, "Music is a universal language that communicates more clearly than any textbook."

  • Liu, with another famed Chinese pianist Liu Shikun, was later invited to perform in the US, completing the first exchange of cultural visits between the two countries.

  • Ever since, Sino-US cultural exchanges have been on the rise, reflecting a more open China.

  • An official with the Ministry of Culture said the two countries have developed a wide-ranging and in-depth cultural bond, with non-governmental involvement playing a major role.

  • Since its founding in 1957, the China Performing Arts Agency has hosted 1,623 American artists performing for Chinese audiences totaling up to 500,000, and sent 3,346 Chinese artists to 850 American cities and regions with audiences of 20.5 million.

  • In 1997, President Jiang Zemin's state visit to the US pushed the number of bilateral cultural exchanges to 366. In 1998, the Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic staged concerts in China just prior to President Bill Clinton's China tour.

  • In 2000, a 25-day Chinese culture promotion festival was held in the United States. Ancient Chinese melodies performed by China's Central Nationalities Orchestra (CCNO) added a cheerful note to the UN Millennium Summit. Once again, Americans marveled at China's charm.

  • In the words of President Clinton, "The United States and China, each with a rich cultural heritage, have much to gain from such exchanges."

  • President Jiang also expressed his wishes that Sino-American cultural exchanges be enhanced.

  • A woman living in St. Louis mortgaged all her property to arrange a CCNO performance in her hometown. An audience of more than 2,000 Americans were crowded in the 1000-seat Kennedy Center, half of them standing almost two hours to listen to the "Romance of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai," the most famous Chinese classical works.

    UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a letter of greeting tithe organizers of the Chinese concert that if music is the source of peace, it must be played.

    (Xinhua News Agency February 15, 2002)

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