Interview: Xi's U.S. visit significant for both countries: U.S. expert

2015-09-14 08:12

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Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming state visit to the United States and his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama are of "great significance" to both countries and the world at large, Ezra Vogel, a professor emeritus at Harvard University, has said.

"The U.S.-China relationship has a bearing on the future of the entire world, so both sides must work together and do a good job," Vogel told Xinhua in a recent interview at his home near the Harvard campus.

"Since (Henry) Kissinger's visit to China (in 1971), Beijing and Washington have knitted an increasingly close ties. As China is gaining more and more influence on the world stage and the United States also wants to see a safe and secure world, the two largest economies have on many occasions joined hands to address major global challenges," the 85-year-old professor added.

During a Feb. 11 phone conversation, Xi accepted an invitation by Obama to pay a state visit in September to the United States, his first since assuming office in March 2013.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that a detailed agenda of the visit will be released in the coming days. Vogel pointed out that although this is going to be Xi's first state visit to the United States, he and Obama had previously met and talked in Sunnylands, California and Beijing, exchanging views in a thorough and candid manner.

Therefore, their scheduled talks in Washington D.C. in late September are expected to further enhance communication and deepen mutual understanding, which will be a good thing for bilateral ties.

Noting that some tensions and disputes are haunting the U.S.-China relations today, the professor said Xi's visit can play a critical role in enhancing mutual trust, solving existing problems and managing differences between the two sides.

During a trip in late August to Beijing in preparation for Xi's visit, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice said the United States is willing to work with China to make the visit not only a complete success, but also "a milestone" in bilateral relations. These remarks showed that Obama "very welcomes" his Chinese guest, and "fully understands" the importance of the bilateral relations, commented Vogel.

According to the professor, the topics the two leaders may cover in their talks include further cooperation on climate change and environment, potential measures to stabilize the global economy and safeguard world security, cyber security, and bilateral military exchanges.

"My guess is that they will also find some things that we will be surprised to see, some good things that they could announce as policy results," he added.

"I think that both leaders want to have this progress." As the author of "Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China," a book widely seen as a faithful and objective account of the late Chinese leader's life and China's three decades of reform and opening-up, Vogel believes that even today many Americans do not know much about China, and China is also not doing enough to help the outside world understand itself.

With media reports saying that Xi is scheduled to speak on several occasions during the upcoming visit, Vogel expressed the hope that the president's speeches could demonstrate an open and candid spirit to have "positive effects" on the American people. Xi's reported plan to have direct interactions with people from all walks of life in the United States also "means a lot to the American economic, academic and media circles, as well as ordinary Americans," he added.

The professor, a well-known China Hand in the United States, also expects Xi to further explain and elaborate on a series of Chinese policies and initiatives, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Belt and Road initiatives, the building of major-power relations and a global community of shared future, during his visit.

"Those are all good ideas and concepts, but China still needs to clarify its intentions and prove them with concrete action," he said.

On the basis of mutual understanding and trust, he said that, "I, and many other Americans, believe that the U.S. government should and will gradually accept and get involved in some of the China-proposed initiatives, such as the AIIB."

Xi's visit can also help promote people-to-people exchanges and friendship, which serve as an important foundation of good bilateral ties, the professor said.

Vogel took notice of Xi's early visit to the United States - in 1985 as a county level official on an agriculture research tour to Iowa - and his emotional reunion with his "old American friends" there in 2012 while visiting again as China's vice president.

"The Americans also cherish friendship and good feelings. If the president can further tap into that during the upcoming visit, I think it will generate quite favorable media and policy influences," he said.

The professor also cited his recent experience during a trip to China as a convincing example for the importance of people-to-people exchanges. "About one week ago, I got sick in China and received a minor surgery in (the southwestern) Chongqing (Municipality), which was very successful.Doctors there tried their best to help me, even though they did not know me at the beginning," he recalled.

Since the 1970s when he first visited China, both the health care system and medical equipment there have taken a giant leap to be on par with those in the developed nations including the United States, said the professor.

"This can be partly attributed to China's exchanges and cooperation with the outside world including America, which in turn has benefited a foreign visitor like me," he said. "There is no reason that we shouldn't continue with this."

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