A diverse group of former Chinese officials and scholars visited New York early this month in the largest semi-official diplomatic initiative in Sino-US relations in three years. The nine-day trip, which concluded on November 16 – two days after President Xi Jinping and United States President Joe Biden met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia – was the first by such a delegation since the end of the Communist Party’s five-yearly national congress last month. It was seen by many as being part of efforts by both sides to de-escalate bilateral tensions. The Chinese delegation was led by Wang Chao , a former vice-minister of foreign affairs and the director and party chief of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, a state-affiliated civil diplomacy organisation, the institute said in an article published on Tuesday. Members included a dozen former business, trade and finance officials, as well as scholars in the fields of diplomacy and defence. They included former commerce minister Chen Deming, Cui Tiankai , the former Chinese ambassador to the US, and the heads of a solar power company and a car parts company. Henry Kissinger warns against ‘endless confrontation’ with China The group met former US officials and executives led by Maurice Greenberg, the former chairman and CEO of insurer American International Group. Greenberg, 97, is known for his close ties with China. The Chinese delegation also met former secretary of state Henry Kissinger , 99, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Michael Mullen, 76, and former ambassadors to China Max Baucus, 80, and Terry Branstad, 76. Lu Xiang, a Sino-US relations specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the trip was a positive sign for the resumption of dialogue between China and the US. “A visit led by the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, which is a civil organisation, will allow both countries to discuss more practical issues such as trade and commerce,” Lu said. “Greenberg’s call on reconstructing ties with China actually represents the mainstream view of the business and trade sector in the US, because it is very hard for American businesses to decouple from China completely.” To mend Sino-US relations, nothing can beat face-to-face interaction Aiming to fix what he called “the most important bilateral relationship in the world”, Greenberg formed a group in July composed of US business executives and policy leaders with a desire to “foster a meaningful but frank exchange between the US and Chinese governments on issues of mutual concern”.