- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2009

PANDA DIPLOMACY

Thirty years ago, “pingpong diplomacy” led to the opening of U.S.-China relations. Today, “Kung Fu Panda” is helping to keep the relationship alive.

The bumbling panda, the star of the animated Hollywood film, is a big hit in China, along with other American cultural exports like McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken fast-food restaurants, according to the Chinese Embassy.

“The China-U.S. relationship has moved from estrangement and antagonism to responsible stakeholders and constructive partners,” the embassy added in a New Year’s message to mark the anniversary of the diplomatic milestone.

Since Jan. 1, 1979, when the United States recognized communist China, the two countries have moved closer in terms of trade, investment, tourism and cultural and scientific exchanges. Disputes still linger over issues such as U.S. support for Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province, and U.S. criticism of China’s human rights record.

China also owns an estimated $1 trillion in American foreign debt, making Beijing the largest U.S. creditor overseas.

Clark Randt, the U.S. ambassador to China, noted those financial holdings also give Beijing a major stake in the recovery of the U.S. economy.

“The Chinese have understood clearly that they are our biggest creditor,” he told the Reuters news agency in an interview on the 30th anniversary of U.S.-China relations.

“They are rooting for us. They hold a lot of dollars, and they understand that we are in the same boat. If our economy is in trouble, they are in trouble.”

In its New Year’s message, the Chinese Embassy underscored the depth of the economic relationship. Annual trade increased to $300 billion in 2007 from only $2.4 billion before 1979. U.S. investors have bankrolled 56,000 projects in China worth $59 billion, the embassy said.

“McDonald’s and KFC shops can be found at many street corners in China,” the embassy said. “Today, Hollywood and Disney movies, such as ‘Titanic’ and ‘Kung Fu Panda,’ have been a hit in China.”

In sports, U.S. Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps is a “household name” in China, while Shanghai-born Yao Ming is a star basketball player with the Houston Rockets in the NBA, the embassy added.

President Bush sent Chinese President Hu Jintao a New Year’s message to commemorate the diplomatic anniversary.

“I am confident,” Mr. Bush said, “that, working with common purpose and determination, our two nations can successfully address global challenges to ensure that our children inherit a truly better and safer world.”

OMAN TRADE

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