In the grand hall of Shanghai's Jinjiang hotel, the picture of former American President Richard Nixon toasting with former Premier Zhou Enlai portrays the significance of that moment.
Forty years ago, Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit the People's Republic of China. He met with China's leader Mao Zedong on Feb. 21, the day he arrived in the country, and then the Shanghai Communique -- which was the major achievement of his ice-breaking visit -- was released on Feb. 28, 1972, the day he left China. The Communique was finalized in the grand hall of the hotel.
"It can be said that Sino-U.S. relationship kicked off here," Nixon recalled while revisiting the hall in 1993.
According to the Shanghai Communique, on which the negotiations led by him and Zhou, "the two sides expressed the hope that the gains achieved during this visit would open up new prospects for the relations between the two countries." It emphasized the normalization of relations between the two countries was not only in the interest of the Chinese and American people but also contributed to the relaxation of tension in Asia and the world.
The visit and the Communique totally changed China-U.S. relations, leading to official establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries at the ambassadorial-level on Jan. 1, 1979.
Decades later, trade between the two countries has reached 440 billion U.S. dollars.
The China-US relationship has become one of the most important, dynamic and promising bilateral links in today's world, Vice President Xi Jinping said during his visit to the U.S. two weeks ago.
Strangers from the other side
Qiu Huanxi, a former waiter at the hotel well remembers the American delegation in 1972. Qiu says he would never forget "the mysterious, political task."
"We were nervous and curious, but we had to hide our feelings and look calm," he recalled.
Qiu, a son of a local ordinary family, could not speak any English at the time.
With little idea of how to receive foreigners, Qiu and his colleagues were told to be "neither too humble nor too pushy, neither too friendly nor too hostile."
"They were from the other side of the world after all. They were capitalists," said the 64-year-old.
As none of the waiters and waitresses spoke English, they had to use body language or simply smile to show their sincerity.
Qiu's former colleague, 76-year-old Le Cuidi, said it took "guts" to serve the foreigners tea.
"Some of our colleagues hesitated whether to bring tea or not, but I did it after thinking it over," she said.
Le, a foodrunner during the banquet to receive Nixon, was also surprised to see foreigners enjoying the Chinese liquor Moutai.
"Less than 24 hours, we were acquainted with each other," she laughed.
In 1993, Nixon met the service people again at the hotel, and had group photos taken as commemoration.
In accordance with the Communique, both sides agreed to boost economic relations based on equality and mutual benefit and to facilitate bilateral trade.
In 1979, right after the two countries established diplomatic relations, 3,000 boxes of Coca-Cola were shipped from Hong Kong to Beijing for sale, which was deemed as a milestone for the beginning of Sino-U.S. trade.
So far, there have been 41 Coca Cola plants in the Chinese mainland, with nearly 50,000 jobs created, said David Brooks, president of Coca-Cola Greater China and Korea.
"Total investment of the company in China has reached 5 billion U.S. dollars, and the number will be increased to 9 billion, eyeing huge profit potential in China's rural area," Brooks said.
Today, China-U.S. trade has grown over 180 times than the volume in 1979. Over the past 10 years, U.S. exports to China have increased by 468 percent and created more than 3 million jobs for the United States. Up to 47 out of the 50 U.S. states have seen three-digit or even four-digit growth in their exports to China.
Chinese companies have also expanded their businesses to the U.S., creating numerous jobs.
On the sideline of Xi's visit two weeks ago, China sent six business-promotion delegations consisting of more than 500 Chinese business leaders to visit 11 cities across the U.S. The delegations signed as many as 149 contracts and cooperation agreements worth 38.6 billion dollars, including deals of purchasing U.S. goods and equipment with a total value of 27 billion dollars.
Dan Steinbock, an American researcher with the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, considered the commercial relations between China and U.S. businesses as a "win-win game."
"China needs technology and know-how. America needs jobs and capital," he said.
Interaction between the two countries are not only economical, but also cultural.
Confucius Colleges are continually being set up in the United States, and Chinese celebrities such as Yao Ming have turned into household names there.
In China, people are used to walking in the streets with dazzling American logos like McDonald's and Starbucks. American movies, music and dances are known to the Chinese, and their influences even spread to the country's remote countryside.
Tourism are also booming since people in one country are curious about the mystery of the other and would like to see it themselves.
Steve Kulich, director of Cross-cultural Research Center with the Shanghai International Studies University, said strangers would suppose each other as exotic, but things may be different through communication.
Just like a wish made by an American child, which was displayed at the Shanghai Expo in 2010: "If the world is round, I'd like to dig a hole, through which I crawled to see what the Chinese children are doing."
Forty years on, Qiu Huanxi, now as a retiree from the Jinjiang Hotel, has not yet got a chance to visit the United States. However, his daughter now works for the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. "At the end of last year, my daughter had a training course in the U.S. We even exchanged views about President Barack Obama through mobile phone when she was trained there," Qiu said. "Sure I look forward to having opportunity to visit the country."