The US deputy secretary of state was in China yesterday to mark 30 years of diplomatic ties between the two nations and give the Bush administration’s farewell to the Chinese leadership.
John Negroponte was expected to meet Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔箎) during his visit, when he was also expected to discuss issues such as North Korea’s nuclear program and the economic crisis.
“North Korea, Iran … It’s a broad relationship. I’m sure they’ll talk about economics as well,” US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said late on Tuesday.
But Negroponte’s visit was first and foremost aimed at celebrating the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, he said.
“The primary reason for the visit is to commemorate that 30th anniversary,” McCormack said.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been scheduled to attend the commemorative events in her last trip abroad before the end of US President George W. Bush’s term and president-elect Barack Obama’s move into the White House on Jan. 20.
But she was forced to cancel to focus on the Middle East conflict and she sent Negroponte instead.
The two countries established formal ties on Jan. 1, 1979, when the US switched its diplomatic recognition to communist-ruled China, ending decades of support for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government in Taiwan.
Negroponte was due to attend a friendly table tennis match yesterday to commemorate so-called “ping-pong diplomacy,” a term that refers to China inviting the US table tennis team to tour the country in 1971.
The event kick-started a period of warming relations between the two countries that eventually led to the establishment of formal ties.
Negroponte was due to meet Yang after the ping-pong match yesterday and will hold talks with Xi today before heading back to the US.
Liu Weidong (劉衛東), a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Science, the top government think-tank, said there had been a lot of progress in relations between the two countries in the past 30 years, but problems remained.
“There’s a lack of strategic mutual trust between the two sides … They have different values,” he said.
“The US was worried about whether China’s rise was peaceful and now it is worried about whether China can remain peaceful after it rises,” he said.