Former US Secretary of State Alexander Haig said last Wednesday that the one-China principle has been the "basis for the Sino-US relationship since 1972" when the two countries signed a historic joint communique that paved the way for the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1979.
He said this in an exclusive written interview with Xinhua days before President George W. Bush's two-day visit to China starting tomorrow. February also sees the 30th anniversary of the signing of the 1972 Shanghai Communique.
"I am confident that the Chinese people on both sides of the (Taiwan) Straits realize that there are significant benefits to a peaceful evolution of the reunification issue, just as the world has seen the historic evolution of Hong Kong and Macao under a `one China, two systems' formula," he said.
Haig said the Taiwan problem, as well as its eventual reunification with the mainland, is best left to a more open dialogue between the people on both sides of the Straits.
On the importance of the Shanghai Communique, signed when late US President Richard Nixon made his historic visit to China in February 1972, Haig said its critical words were that the United States "acknowledged that all Chinese on both sides on the Taiwan Straits maintain that there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China."
That, "to this day, must serve as the touchstone of the relationship" between the two countries, he added.
Haig said this principle, affirmed by six succeeding US presidents after Nixon, has enabled the relationship to weather the inevitable differences that are to be expected between two great countries.
He said that President Bush's visit to China will give leaders of the two countries an opportunity to look at a future that will build upon the principles embodied in the landmark Shanghai Communique.
As deputy national security advisor to Nixon, Haig was head of an advance group that prepared for Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972 and one of the important participants in the making of the Shanghai Communique the same year. "The relationship will continue to grow and prosper to the mutual benefit of all peoples," he said.
He expressed his confidence on closer ties between the two countries as President Bush realized after the September 11 terror attacks that the two countries had many common interests.
He stressed that "a durable, long-term US-China strategic relationship is even more important now than in previous decades," adding the events of September 11 have demonstrated that convergence of interests between the two countries serves as a catalyst for a strengthened relationship.
Haig praised China for its role in the campaign against terrorism and its contribution to peace on the Korean Peninsula, the crackdown on drug smuggling and the safeguarding of world peace and security.
He noted that the development of US-China relations is in the interest of the two peoples and predicted closer bilateral ties after China's entry into WTO.
"With China's entry into the World Trade Organization, there should be even closer ties between our two countries," he said.
The former secretary of state also expressed confidence that despite the challenges China is facing in its economic restructuring, the country will meet its obligations and bilateral trade will further contribute to strengthened relations between the two countries.
He said President Bush witnessed China's tremendous achievements in economic development and modernization drive when he attended the APEC Shanghai meeting last year.
Anyone familiar with the principles of market economy and the impacts of economic globalization will not lose sight that China's greater success will bring more benefits to the United States and the world at large, he said.
China will become a brisker market for the US and the world as a whole as the country achieves greater economic prosperity, Haig added.
He urged the two countries to promote greater dialogue on political, commercial and military matters, saying: "Although differences might arise between our two countries, they can be managed, if not resolved, through continuous engagement."
He also urged the two countries to bear in mind the history of their bilateral relations, and remember how and why they established the relations 30 years ago, "otherwise we may repeat past mistakes," he warned.
Looking to the future, Haig said: "The world awaits Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympics, an occasion which will bring into the global spotlight the dramatic advances China is making in enhancing the quality of life for its people.
"We have much to look forward to and much to celebrate on the 30th anniversary of the Shanghai Communique," he said. The communique was signed on February 28, 1972, during Nixon's historic visit to China.
(China Daily February 20, 2002)