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China, U.S. start high-profile events to mark 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties
2009-01-12 22:57

China and the United States on Monday kicked off a series of events to mark three decades of one of the world's most crucial bilateral relationships.

"Like a scroll of vivid historic scenes, these pictures showcase significant progress in the 30 years of China-U.S relations and inspire us," Chinese President Hu Jintao said in a congratulatory message to a photo exhibition marking the relations.

Thanks to the "ping-pong diplomacy" that melted the ice between the two nations, then U.S. President Richard Nixon paid a groundbreaking visit to China in 1972.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (2nd R, front) and his wife Rosalynn Carte visit the photo exhibition marking the 30th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties between China and the United States in Beijing Jan. 12, 2009. The exhibition kicked off here on Monday. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)
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The two countries formally established diplomatic relations on Jan. 1, 1979.

With 360 pictures recalling milestones in bilateral relations, the photo exhibition on Monday drew almost 200 people from the two countries, including key figures in forging relations like former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

From top leaders' handshakes to U.S. swimmers' laughter at the Beijing Olympics, from McDonald's first restaurant in Beijing to China's auto show in Detroit, the pictures capture landmark moments.

"It is very nostalgic," said former U.S. ambassador to Beijing Winston Lord, a member of the U.S. delegation during Richard Nixon's groundbreaking visit to China in 1972.

"The photos brought back many warm and happy memories on working to develop harmonious relationships between the Chinese and the American people."

In a congratulatory message to the exhibition, U.S President George W. Bush said the past 30 years had "strengthened the bonds between the two countries".

Bush said he personally witnessed China's transformation over the past three decades. "In 1975 I saw a nation just beginning its journey of modernization. In 2008, I was proud to watch Beijing host a successful and thrilling Olympic games."

The yearlong photo exhibition will tour Chinese cities, before going to the United States, with the final display in the Atlanta-based Cater Center in December 2009.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (C) attends the opening ceremony of the photo exhibition marking the 30th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties between China and the United States in Beijing Jan. 12, 2009. The exhibition kicked off here on Monday. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)
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On Monday afternoon, a seminar to review the past three decades of bilateral ties and look to future relations began in Beijing.

The two-day seminar gathered senior Chinese diplomats, including Qian Qichen, Tang Jiaxuan, Li Zhaoxing, and all living Chinese ambassadors to Washington D.C. as well as scholars and entrepreneurs.

In addition to Carter and Kissinger, former U.S. National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski as well as U.S. ambassadors in Beijing attended the seminar.

"As a Chinese saying goes 'when you drink the water, think of those who dug the well', said State Councilor Dai Bingguo. "I want to pay high tribute to leaders of the older generations and all those visionaries working for the diplomatic relations between the two countries."

With U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to take office in a week, the future of bilateral ties was a hot topic at the seminar.

"China expected the new U.S. administration to show enough strategic vision and political wisdom, inherit and work from the good China legacies left by the earlier administrations," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei said.

"Overall, the American policy with China will remain essentially the same under the Obama administration," Lord said. "If you look at what Obama has been saying about U.S.-China relations, look at what type of people he has been appointing to key foreign policy positions, these suggest great continuity."

"Obama's diplomatic team is pragmatic and values multilateral approaches," said Qin Yaqing, vice president of Chinese Foreign Affairs University. "I don't think there will be significant changes in Obama's China policy."

Later Monday, President Hu met with a U.S. delegation led by former U.S. President Carter on the sidelines of celebrations.

"As old friends of the Chinese people, you played an important role in establishing China-U.S. diplomatic ties and witnessed that historic decision," Hu told the U.S. delegation.

"For a long time, whether in office or retired, you have made unremitting efforts in building the friendship between the two nations and developing the relationship. I highly appreciate those efforts."

"For all American citizens, particularly for these leaders, this is a wonderful occasion to celebrate," Carter said.

Hu called for the two nations to review and deal with bilateral relations from a strategic and long-term perspective, and jointly respond to the global challenges.

"It is natural for the two nations to be divided on some issues as the two practice different social systems, inherit different histories and cultures, and stay in a different phase of development," Hu said.

Hu proposed that the two sides respect each other, properly address differences and problems, take into consideration each other's core interests so as to promote the long-term sound growth of bilateral ties.

Carter said, "All of us, even including Deng Xiaoping, would have been amazed 30 years ago at the great changes that took place not only within your own country, but in the relationship between our two nations."

At a reception in the Great Hall of the People Monday evening, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping hosted about 500 guests from the two countries.

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