Letters from leaders are a good sign for bilateral relations

Chinese and American flags fly in front of an American company building in Beijing on January 21, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Xi emphasizes “mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation”

In an effort to motivate supporters of the China-US friendship, the leaders of the two countries sent letters of congratulations to a gala dinner in New York and stressed the global importance of the relationship.

More positive gestures and actions are expected from both sides, especially Washington, to help mend the strained relations between the countries, experts and officials said.

Sino-US relations are “at a critical historic turning point,” President Xi Jinping said in his letter to the annual dinner of the National Committee on Sino-US Relations on Tuesday evening. Xi stressed Beijing’s willingness to follow the principles of “mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation” and to work with Washington to “improve exchanges and cooperation at all levels.”

Beijing is ready to jointly address regional and international issues as well as global challenges and properly manage the differences, he added.

Xi said the goal is to put China-US ties, “one of the most important bilateral ties in the world,” back on track for healthy and steady development.

Reaffirming the importance of the relationship, Xi said the two countries will gain in cooperation and lose in confrontation.

His letter was read by the Chinese ambassador to the American Qin gang during the gala dinner. In his own speech, Qin said some people said the relationship cannot go back to the past, but “we reject this view.”

China’s policy towards the United States is “very” consistent and stable, and the Chinese side always manages the relationship from a strategic and long-term perspective, Qin added.

US President Joe Biden said in his letter that the relationship has global significance, from tackling the pandemic to tackling the climate crisis.

“Solving these challenges and seizing the opportunities will require that the wider international community come together as we each do our part to build a secure, peaceful and resilient future,” Biden added.

The letters came as the two sides engaged with each other through several key contacts and meetings.

Senior diplomats from both sides met in Anchorage, Alaska, in March, Tianjin in July, and separately in Zurich and Rome in October. Xi and Biden have had two phone conversations this year, one in February and another in September.

Diao Daming, associate professor of American studies at Renmin University of China, said Xi’s letter shows Beijing “is willing to further exploit the roles of friendly figures and organizations and further stabilize relations.”

The committee has played a vital role in contacts between the two countries since the 1960s, long before diplomatic relations were established in 1979, and its members are indispensable for the development of relations, Diao said.

Biden’s letter represents the United States’ “calm and reasonable views” towards relations with China, and “is useful for potential closer contacts between the two leaders and the two countries,” Diao added.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday that the two sides were maintaining close communication on the modalities of a meeting of the two heads of state.

The two leaders agreed to maintain regular contact through multiple means, Wang added.

Speaking at the reception, committee chairman and former US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said he was encouraged by the acceleration of government-to-government talks. Stabilizing the relationship must be a shared priority and responsibility, and “escalating hostility” cannot lead to complete economic decoupling or, worse yet, outright conflict, Lew said.

Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the US Studies Department at the China Institute for International Studies, said letters from the leaders show the two sides know that it is impossible to stifle exchanges.

“Currently, there are still disruptive factors that cloud the relationship, and both sides, especially the United States, must work towards the same goals,” she said.

In his letter, Xi said their ability to manage their relationship well “relates to the fundamental interests of both countries and peoples and concerns the future of the world.”

He praised the “long-standing dedication of the committee to the growth of China-US relations” and encouraged the organization and all those who care about and support the development of relations to build trust, continue their good work and bring more wisdom and strength to the advancement of China-US friendship for the benefit of the people of both countries and around the world.

Biden praised the committee for “helping foster mutual understanding and constructive conversation to help find common ground.”

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