- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2008

CHINA WATCHING

The photos mounted in the hall of the Chinese Embassy tell a story of the historic relationship between the United States and communist China.

The display ranges from the “pingpong diplomacy” that helped thaw relations in 1971 to the Chinese Olympics of 2008.

In between, Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser to President Nixon, holds his secret meeting in Beijing with Premier Zhou Enlai in 1971 and Mr. Nixon makes his groundbreaking trip to China to meet Mao Zedong in 1972. Every U.S. president since then is shown smiling and shaking hands with Chinese leaders either in Washington or the Chinese capital.

It all began with pingpong games on April 10, 1971, when members of the U.S. table tennis team crossed into China from Hong Kong, then a British colony, and played exhibition matches with the Chinese national team.

By Dec. 16, 1978, China and the United States had signed a joint communique, establishing diplomatic relations. On Jan. 1, 1979, they announced the formal exchange of ambassadors.

“A new era in China-U.S. relations thus began,” Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong said Tuesday evening at a reception marking the 30th anniversary of the 1978 diplomatic agreement. “Tremendous changes have taken place in the world since then, amidst which the China-U.S. relationship took a remarkable and breathtaking journey to what it is right now.”

Mr. Zhou noted that trade alone increased from “a mere $2.4 billion” in 1979 to more than $300 billion last year.

“As if in a blink of an eye, the China-U.S. relationship has moved from estrangement and antagonism to responsible stakeholders and constructive partners,” the ambassador said.

China, he added, sees its future as one committed to global free trade that will promote its own national interests, as well as “the international community, including the United States.”

“The next 30 years will be even more splendid for the China-U.S. relationship,” he said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. called the anniversary a “turning point in U.S.-Chinese history.”

Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte added that the United States “looks forward to working with an increasingly confident and open China.”

Commerce Secretary Elaine L. Chao, who was born in Taiwan in 1953 after her parents fled the communist revolution in China, recalled her first visit to the mainland in 1979 and looking out of an airplane window at the “capital of the Middle Kingdom cloaked in darkness” because of a lack of electricity.

Today, she added, China is a “presence on the world stage.”

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