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China-US relations

Cultural exchanges build better relations

Such Sino-US interactions strengthen understanding and trust, crucial factors in resolving disputes and expanding bilateral cooperation and ties

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 September, 2017, 4:25am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 September, 2017, 4:25am

Trade and the security concerns posed by North Korea are the hot-button issues for China and the United States that will feature in talks between presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump in November. Friction over either matter could derail relations, which is why a series of high-level meetings between senior officials is so welcome; through such contacts, intentions can be made known and ways found to avoid missteps. But less noticed, although as important, are cultural and education exchanges. Such interactions strengthen understanding and trust, crucial factors in resolving disputes and expanding bilateral cooperation and ties.

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on a three-day visit to Beijing to prepare the groundwork for Trump’s trip, days after commerce secretary Wilbur Ross was also in the capital to discuss bilateral trade. There is good reason for such interaction; China and the US are at odds over how to best deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and the American leader has accused China of unfair trade practices and currency manipulation. A rift over North Korea and a trade war have to be avoided. The discussions directly deal with those issues but, less obviously, so does this week’s visit to the US by Vice-Premier Liu Yandong to take part in cultural events.

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On Thursday Liu held talks with Trump, who spoke of the importance of people-to-people exchanges. The vice-premier met Tillerson before he flew to Beijing and the pair co-chaired the first round of the US-China Social and Cultural Dialogue. The meeting, one of four high-level dialogues established by Xi and Trump when they held their first summit in Florida in April, will help boost friendship and cooperation. Culture and education, through exhibitions like those being held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Chinese and American university students studying in one another’s countries, help establish firm foundations.

The interaction of Chinese and American students and academics, scientists, businesspeople and visitors draws the sides closer. That builds understanding, trust, respect and wisdom, necessities for healthy and stable bilateral relations.