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Early China visit recalled as part of Albright legacy

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Beijing and LIA ZHU in San Francisco | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-03-25 09:48

Madeleine Albright delivers a speech in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2016. [LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS]

Madeleine Albright, the United States' first female secretary of state who also traveled with one of the first US delegations to China in the 1970s, died on Wednesday in Washington. She was 84.

Albright was born Marie Jana Korbelova in Prague on May 15,1937. Her father was a Czechoslovakian diplomat. Her family escaped the former Czechoslovakia 10 days after the Nazi invasion and arrived in the US in 1948.

Albright rose to prominence as a world affairs analyst and a White House counselor on national security. Under former US president Bill Clinton, she became the country's representative to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997 and secretary of state from 1997 to 2001.

In the 1970s, not long after the historic visit by former US president Richard Nixon to China, Albright accompanied one of the first US Senate delegations to Shanghai and Beijing.

The China trip with the congressional delegation offered Albright a peek into a country that was about to open up to the outside world.

"I remember some of the comments by the other members of Congress who said, they all work so hard. We need more people, you know, that are so dedicated to working so hard. And so, I think they were very impressed with what they saw, the difficulty of the work. The possibilities for the country," she said.

In Shanghai, Albright said she would get up very early in the morning and walk around by herself and found people were fascinated by her high-heeled shoes.

She was fascinated by the fact that despite that everybody had on gray suits, people in Shanghai had colorful laundry. "I looked up and the laundry was colorful, and I thought 'ah-ha' there's something different going on underneath," she said in a podcast interview in April 2020.

"And so when I've gone to Shanghai since then-the laundry, colorful laundry has been replaced by neon lights."

Throughout her career, Albright was part of efforts to improve relations with China. As secretary of state during the Clinton administration, Albright visited China five times.

"The most tangible success of the administration's engagement strategy was the 1999 agreement, negotiated by our tenacious US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky, clearing the way for China's entry into the WTO," she recalled.

In Madam Secretary: A Memoir, Albright called the US' granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations status to China in 2000 and China's accession to the World Trade Organization the next year "a historic development, the precise dimensions of which will only become clear over time".

"If China and the United States can achieve economic growth through participation in a global system governing trade, we may be able to find comparable benefits in cooperating on terror and proliferation," she wrote in the memoir.

During her meetings with Chinese officials, Albright recalled: "We thought that the international system would be stronger with China integrated in it."

In her last few years, Albright called for cooperation between the US and China and helped promote people-to-people ties between the two countries, saying that engagement was "more critical now than ever".

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in spring 2020, Albright endorsed a joint statement by more than 90 former high-level government officials, urging cooperation between the US and China to combat the pandemic. She again said the COVID-19 crisis "requires cooperation, including with China" in 2020.

At a forum last year, Albright said: "A more competitive bilateral relationship should not preclude the US and China from working together to strengthen our economies and meeting the numerous global challenges where our two countries' interests align.

"I've said it so often myself. The US-China relationship is among the most significant in the world. The bottom line is that we must make this relationship work."

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