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New Ambassador on Sino-US Relations

China's new ambassador to the United States said on Thursday that Sino-US relations are "in a new age" with a new US president and this demands a "forward attitude" and a determination to "forge a constructive and cooperative relationship."

He also stessed that human rights issue should not be allowed to derail Beijing's bid to stage the 2008 Olympics.

In one of his first major public appearances since arriving two months ago, Yang Jiechi said "we are no longer in the Cold War era" and urged Americans to make a determined effort to forge "constructive and cooperative relationship."

Yang vowed to be a bridge builder between the two countries.

The remarks to an audience of US officials and some of the most influential American analysts on China drew enthusiastic applause. A former US official described his speech as a diplomatic tour de force.

Yang, seeming relaxed, cracked jokes, paid homage to several recently deceased American experts on China and lauded Thomas Jefferson, the third US president.

He criticized those who want to block Beijing from holding the 2008 Olympic Games and underlined China's concerns about Taiwan.

"Human rights is important... Yes, there is room for improvement on human rights in China," Yang said. "On the other hand, one has to say that no country is perfect."

He said China was in the middle of a reform and in the last two decades lifted 200 million people -- almost the population of the United States -- out of poverty.

The envoy said China's bid for the Olympic games was something the Chinese people, not just the government, wanted.

"It would be regrettable if there is a movement to oppose China hosting the Olympics," Yang said.

Yang suggested it would be inconsistent for such critics, in the name of human rights, to ignore the rights of the Chinese people who favor hosting the Olympics.

Yang also said the relationship between China and the US had traveled a long and tortuous road.

But Yang also added that the United States and China have many common interests and both sides must take the long-term view when they confront areas of disagreement.

With the visit to Washington last week of China's Vice-Premier Qian Qichen, "the relationship has made a good start" and there is "a consensus to push forward," Yang said.

Yang noted that he had known many people in the audience for the past 25 years. Participants said there was great hope that Yang, until recently vice foreign minister, could help steer through the rocky shoals of Sino-American ties.

Yang's appearance was sponsored by the National Committee on US-China Relations.

(China Daily 03/30/2001)

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