Skip to content

Xi Speaks to Americans on the Principles Needed To Secure U.S.-China Friendship

Speaking after his meeting with President Biden on Nov. 15 at a banquet organized by the friends of China, including the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the U.S. Business Council, among others, President Xi Jinping gave a very moving and personal speech indicating how the two countries could move forward together. He began with a look back at U.S.-China relations over the last 158 years to the establishment of the first Chinatown in San Francisco, when thousands of Chinese workers came to the U.S. to build the Transcontinental Railroad. He also referenced the role of San Francisco in hosting the founding of the United Nations, which continues to provide the basis of the post-World War II system.

He talked about the U.S. role in assisting China fight the Japanese occupation in the 1940s, citing the figure of Claire Chennault and the Flying Tigers, whom China memorialized in museums. He also described the role of Chinese farmers who saved pilots and crew from the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan when they had to bail out over China. Here also is a Chinese museum honoring the Doolittle Raid Memorial Hall in Quzhou of Zhejiang Province. “Offspring of those American pilots often visit the Doolittle Raid Memorial Hall in Quzhou of Zhejiang Province to pay tribute to the Chinese people for their heroic and valorous efforts. These stories fill me with firm confidence that the friendship between our two peoples, which has stood the test of blood and fire, will be passed on from generation to generation.”

He then detailed the meetings he had held with U.S. government officials and with American businessmen and groups coming to visit China prior to his meeting with the U.S. President. He explained: “For 22 years, there were estrangement and antagonism between our two countries. But the trend of the times brought us together, converging interests enabled us to rise above differences, and the people’s longing broke the ice between the two countries.”

He expanded on his personal trips to the United States, his visits to Iowa, and his impressions of the character of the American people: “During my first visit to the United States, I stayed at the Dvorchaks in Iowa. I still remember their address—2911 Bonnie Drive. That was my first face-to-face contact with the Americans. The days I spent with them are unforgettable. For me, they represent America. I have found that although our two countries are different in history, culture and social system and have embarked on different development paths, our two peoples are both kind, friendly, hardworking and down-to-earth. We both love our countries, our families and our lives, and we both are friendly toward each other and are interested in each other. It is the convergence of many streams of goodwill and friendship that has created a strong current surging across the vast Pacific Ocean; it is the reaching out to each other by our peoples that has time and again brought China-U.S. relations from a low ebb back onto the right track. I am convinced that once opened, the door of China-U.S. relations cannot be shut again. Once started, the cause of China-U.S. friendship cannot be derailed halfway. The tree of our peoples’ friendship has grown tall and strong; and it can surely withstand the assault of any wind or storm.”

He reiterated the basic issue that he had also stressed in his talks with President Biden: “I have always had one question on my mind: How to steer the giant ship of China-U.S. relations clear of hidden rocks and shoals, navigate it through storms and waves without getting disoriented, losing speed or even having a collision?

“In this respect, the number one question for us is: are we adversaries, or partners? This is the fundamental and overarching issue. The logic is quite simple. If one sees the other side as a primary competitor, the most consequential geopolitical challenge and a pacing threat, it will only lead to misinformed policymaking, misguided actions, and unwanted results. China is ready to be a partner and friend of the United States. The fundamental principles that we follow in handling China-U.S. relations are mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation,” he stressed.

He proceeded to explain China’s position in the global arena and the nature of the Chinese system: “We are committed to prosperity for all to deliver a better life for each and every Chinese. To eliminate poverty is the millennia-old dream of the Chinese nation, and prosperity for all is the longing of all Chinese. Before I turned 16, I was in a village in northern Shaanxi Province, where I lived and farmed with villagers, and I knew about their worries and needs. Now half a century on, I always feel confident and strong when staying with the people. Serving the people selflessly and living up to their expectations is my lifelong commitment. When I became General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and President of the People’s Republic of China, 100 million people were still living below the poverty line set by the United Nations. Thanks to eight years of tenacious efforts, we lifted them all out of poverty. We realized the poverty reduction goal of the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule. In the process, over 1,800 CPC members lost their lives in the line of duty.”

China is not seeking to replace the United States or to change the U.S. system, Xi declared, saying he hoped that the United States would adopt the same attitude. He described how China’s large population is both a tremendous advantage and a major responsibility, which requires constant vigilance to ensure meeting the needs of the population. With characteristic irony, he said: “A large population is a fundamental aspect of China’s reality. Our achievements, however great, would be very small when divided by 1.4 billion. But a problem, however small, would be huge when multiplied by 1.4 billion. This is a unique challenge for a country of our size.”

Xi further underlined China’s commitment to also creating prosperity for the people of the world, citing the Belt and Road Initiative, which project is also open for U.S. participation. He said he would be interested in working together in similar projects that other nations might propose. He also pointed out the importance of his Global Civilization Initiative. “Chinese modernization is people-centered. An important goal of Chinese modernization is to continue increasing the country’s economic strength and improving the people’s living standards, and at the same time, enriching the people’s cultural lives, enhancing civility throughout society and promoting well-rounded development of the person. The purpose of the Global Civilization Initiative I proposed is to urge the international community to address the imbalance between material and cultural advancement and jointly promote continued progress of human civilization.”