As an honored guest speaker at the China Sciences and Humanities Forum in Beijing yesterday, former US president George H.W. Bush recalled his first parachute jump over the Pacific Ocean during World War II and his bicycle rides with his wife Barbara in Beijing's hutongs more than 30 years ago.
Bush Snr said he had plans to do another parachute jump in June and hoped a student from the packed audience in the auditorium of the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences would join him.
The 800 students and faculty members applauded Bush not only for his humor but also for his personal view on US-China relations in his words "a friend of China," or "lao peng you."
China and US relationships are what he believed to be "the most important bilateral relationship that will affect peace and prosperity in the 21st Century for all of you and students like you in America," he said, adding now that he is retired, he could speak candidly about the challenges facing both China and the US.
Calling the ongoing US-China Economic Strategic Dialogue "breathtaking," he also pointed out that "in the spirit of friendship and respect," it was important for China as well as the US to address the causes of the huge trade imbalance, such as by increasing domestic demand, protecting intellectual property rights and making the exchange rate more flexible.
"These steps are critical," he said, as he was most worried that "some of the leaders are anti-free trade; and more for protectionism."
He said they wanted to address the trade imbalance with legislation that "violates free and fair trade."
On regional security, he said China and the US should stand together against the spread of nuclear weapons.
He noted that "Chinese leaders play a constructive role on the world stage."
"I know the fundamental decency of China," he said.
He said he was aware of China's donations to tsunami-ravaged areas of Indonesia and its constructive role in relief efforts in Southeast Asia.
"This kind of multilateral approach by China would not be possible 30 years ago, as it was the way China operated in those days," he said.
This multilateral cooperation was very "vitally important," he said, as countries work closely together on various fronts to fight terrorism, ensure regional stability and deal with global warming and environmental issues.
"I see our two nations working together on overlapping issues and am confident we can make real progress in improving the quality of life for the citizens not only of our two countries but throughout Asia and the global community," he said.
(China Daily December 15, 2006)