Essence of ties revealed in China-US summit
Published: Nov 21, 2023 10:11 PM
Illustration: Liu Xidan/GT

Illustration: Liu Xidan/GT

The recent China-US summit attracted worldwide attention as the China-US relationship is not only one of the most important bilateral relationships but also of great significance for the world. While some positive results from the summit inject certainty to the world, I found out three interesting details from the summit as I was in San Francisco to cover this event, which underscores the logic and essence of how the two major countries interact and coexist. 

"Do you know this young man?" US President Joe Biden showed a picture in his phone to Chinese President Xi Jinping at the entrance of a banquet hall of Filoli Estate where the two leaders held the summit last week. The photo showed Xi in his 30s, standing with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. 

Xi replied, "Yes, that was me 38 years ago." At that time, Xi was a county leader of Zhengding in North China's Hebei Province, and San Francisco was the first stop of his maiden trip to the US. 

Over the past 38 years, numerous trips have been made across the Pacific. A distance of over 9,000 kilometers did not stop the frequent people-to-people exchanges, leaving many touching and heartwarming stories. Those are vivid examples showing why the foundation of China-US relations lies in people. And the lasting power of these friendly relationships has consistently been a source of energy for bilateral relations, sustaining them through both the good times and the hard times.

In a welcome dinner, Xi recalled this photo of him 38 years ago, leading to a ripple of laughter in the room. Some of his old friends from Iowa were invited to the dinner, as the Chinese top leader always believes that people hold the key to state-to-state relations. No matter how US politics changes, as long as the friendship between the two peoples continues, there is always hope for the two countries to peacefully coexist and grow together. 

The summit yielded some positive results including increasing flights between the two countries, encouraging exchanges between the two peoples. At the welcome dinner, Xi said that China is ready to invite 50,000 young Americans to China on exchange and stay programs. There is a visible mutual interest driving these consensuses in the people-to-people exchanges sector among the initial steps in improving the overall relations. 

"It's a beautiful vehicle," Biden remarked when he walked Xi out to the car after the meetings at Filoli Estate, pointing to Xi's Hongqi N701 limousine. Xi responded in Chinese, saying that "it's Hongqi car, made in China." 

Biden told Xi that his Cadillac presidential car is called Beast. This "beautiful vehicle" moment has gone viral on both Chinese and US social media and some said, "How times have really changed as the Chinese public used to look up to American cars and skyscrapers with envy, but today, Chinese vehicles are going global." 

Although the brands of the two cars are different, they are still somewhat similar, which could indicate that the two countries, despite their systematic, cultural, economic differences, can respect and appreciate each other.

It also reminded some of a moment between Xi and Biden back in 2015 when Xi visited the US and had a conversation with then vice president Biden, who pointed out that his tie was "made in China." "The quality of your tie should be good. Wearing it is like advertising for them. I wonder if they pay you any advertising fees?" President Xi humorously remarked.

The cooperation between the two countries has been generating vast opportunities with industries and supply chains highly integrated. 

A day after the four-hour summit with Xi, Biden said at the APEC meetings that the US would not decouple from China, adding that a stable relationship between the world's two largest economies is not merely good for the two economies but for the world. These messages are clear: despite the ups and downs in the China-US relations over the past few years, continuing cooperation is in line with the interests of both sides. 

The welcome dinner at the Hyatt Regency was another highlight of Xi's visit. Executives from US corporate giants such as Apple's Tim Cook, BlackRock's Laurence Fink, Broadcom's Hock Tan, Bridgewater Associates' Ray Dalio and Pfizer's Albert Bourla were at the dinner tables. 

"Prosperity for all," Tesla CEO Elon Musk posted in social media after he met Xi. He also told the Xinhua News Agency that he hopes China and the US can work together for global prosperity.

When some observers cast doubts as to whether the trade and business still serve as ballast in China-US relations, especially when the geopolitical tensions have been on the rise, a slew of numbers and facts gave a clear response. 

The bilateral trade volume has reached $760 billion, accounting for one-fifth of the global total. The reciprocal investments between the two countries support millions of jobs in both countries. And the US sent the strongest-ever delegation to the recent China International Import Expo. 

The China-US summit came at a time when the bilateral relations faced many difficulties due to the misunderstanding and mistrust in Washington toward Beijing. In addition, the pandemic over the past three years reduced the people-to-people exchanges between the two sides, leading to more alienation. 

These three details from the summit reveal the essence of the bilateral relations despite the upcoming US election in 2024 that could possibly bring new challenges. The long-lasting friendship, the shared vast opportunities and highly integrated industries all serve as the cornerstone of the most important bilateral relations in the world. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. chenqingqing@globaltimes.com.cn