US President George W. Bush carried out "bicycle diplomacy" in Beijing yesterday, reliving memories of the times he spent in the Chinese capital in 1975.
His 45-minute ride on the outskirts of the city may have helped him see a China very different to the one he witnessed three decades ago. Many hutong have given way to high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, however, the bicycle remains a popular form of transport.
When his father George H.W. Bush served as chief of the US Liaison Office in China from 1974-76, the two countries were deliberating the details of their diplomatic relationship.
Now, although the "wheels" of bilateral ties are on the bicycle, the road ahead is bright but not without bumps.
To keep a bicycle moving, the rider needs to maintain his or her balance. This skill also applies to managing foreign relations, especially such important and complicated ones as Sino-US ties.
Bush's trip to China was his third since becoming president in 2001. President Hu Jintao met Bush in New York in September, and Hu is scheduled to pay another visit to the United States early next year.
Such a frequent exchange of high-level visits indicates positive developments in Sino-US relations as both leaders have tried to strengthen mutual trust and build a personal rapport.
Following his "constructive and candid" talks with Hu, Bush told reporters that US-China relations are very important.
He highly praised Beijing's role in hosting the Six-Party Talks to end the nuclear stand-off on the Korean Peninsula and its co-operation in the war against terrorism.
Although Bush raised issues such as the trade deficit, protection of intellectual property rights and currency reforms, the US president stressed that both sides should address their problems and differences through friendly consultation.
The message sent from the Hu-Bush summit was very clear: Complicated as it is, the Sino-US relationship is so important that the two sides must keep it stable or, better still, move it forward. Only through expanding their co-operation can the two countries more effectively meet common global challenges and better safeguard their mutual interests.
Obviously, President Bush has managed to take a pragmatic and balanced approach in his administration's China policy despite the increased advocacy of the "China threat" by some hawkish US politicians.
Bush's short stay in Beijing just 40 hours was not long enough to produce any breakthrough in ending specific disagreements between the two countries.
But it offered both sides an opportunity to clarify areas of concern and, more importantly, find more areas for co-operation.
Just as President Hu said, both leaders believe that Beijing and Washington should strive for mutual benefit and a win-win situation through developing "constructive and co-operative" relations.
The Sino-US relationship has become so entwined that each player is dependent on the other to a great degree. The strategic vision shared by the two countries serves as the foundation for their partnership.
There are a number of issues where there is agreement but deep and wide differences continue to be a challenge.
Encouragingly, the two leaders believe the two nations can deal with them through dialogue, which is certain to facilitate the steady and sustainable development of bilateral ties.
Former President George H.W. Bush closed his inaugural address in 1989 by saying: "I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning. The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds."
So, we hope the Hu-Bush meeting will herald a new page in bilateral ties benefiting the peoples of both these great nations.
(China Daily November 21, 2005)