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Jimmy Carter: Mutual respect key to maintaining, developing US-China relationship
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Jimmy Carter: Mutual respect key to maintaining, developing US-China relationship

By Ge Xiangwen

Mutual respect is the most important factor to maintain and develop the US-China relationship, former US president Jimmy Carter said.

"I think it (the US-China relationship) is now the most important relationship that the United States has with any country in the world. And I'm very proud of that fact," Carter told representatives from major Chinese media organizations in a recent interview in Carter Center, Altlanta, Ga., ahead of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the establishment of US.China diplomatic relations on January 1, 1979.

Carter, who played an important role in the normalization of US-China relations, said he saw the "great need" to normalize US-China relationship after he became president in 1977.

"So I contacted the Chinese leaders, Deng Xiaoping in particular, and he and I began to negotiate from a distance but very secretly, from inside the White House directly to him," he recalled.

After the two countries formally established diplomatic relations, Carter invited Deng to visit the United States in 1979, opening a new chapter in the history of China-US relations.

"During that time he (Deng) was with me, we reached a wide range of agreements, multiple agreements, dozens of them, involving every aspect of life between our two countries," said the former president, noting that was "a turning point" in the history of the United States.

Carter said he saw "tremendous changes" in China since the normalization of US-China relations.

"I think that perhaps the combination of the normalization of relations between our two countries and the commitment that Deng Xiaoping made to reform has transformed to some degree the status of the Chinese people inside the country and also the status of China as global figure," he said.

"China has also expanded its diplomatic and political influence in a very profoundly important way ... China has become much more of an important factor in the life of the world," Carter added.

The former president also said the normalization of US-China relations is also "a benefit to America as well."

"I think that China has shown that in your region of the world, that is Asia, that our two countries can work together in harmony and in cooperation," he said.

"So together we have to maintain peace and reach out to other countries. We have maintained our ways of life and I think the United States has been gratified to see that China has become much more influential in the world," said Carter.

Carter also mentioned that the normalization of US-China relations took place at a time when China made a historic decision of reform and opening-up, and said he was surprised by China's rapid development.

"I have to admit that in 1979, now thirty years ago, I didn't envision such transforming events inside China or between China and outside world," he said.

"And I didn't ever envision that China would have the most rapidly growing and expanding economic system on earth," said Carter.

Looking forward, the former president said mutual respect is the most important factor to maintain and develop US-China relations and cooperation.

"This is very important. And knowing that we will have a new president next year and also because our 30th Anniversary, I will be in China next month. And we have planned the trip so that I can complete my visit and return to the United States just three or four days before Barack Obama is inaugurated," said Carter.

He said he will discuss the issue with US president-elect Obama's national security team and he will strongly "recommend the maintenance of the mutual respect between our two countries and the openness in discussions."

With mutual respect and open discussion, Carter said he believes that "any potential disagreements we may have or competitions may arise between our two countries would be resolved in the mutual respect way, peaceful way."

He also stressed that it is important to recognize "this abiding friendship that we started 30 years ago would never be endangered."

The 84-year-old former president said it is "almost a matter of fate to bring me together as a friend of China," because he was born on October 1, which happens to be China's National Day.

Anticipating the upcoming 30th anniversary of the establishment of US-China diplomatic relations, Carter sent a warm message for China's leaders and its people and expressed his gratitude "to the Chinese leaders and the people of welcoming my country and me personally as partners and preserving peace and promoting the well-being of the people on earth."

(Xinhua News Agency December 8, 2008)

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