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US general's enduring legacy for ties lauded

By TAN YINGZI in Chongqing | China Daily | Updated: 2023-08-10 07:05

General Joseph Stilwell (center) talks to soldiers in Chongqing. CHONGQING STILWELL MUSEUM

The late Joseph Stilwell reflected close cooperation in tough times, experts say

With China and the United States facing frosty bilateral relations in recent years, commemorations marking the 140th anniversary of the birth of US Army General Joseph Stilwell remind people of the countries' history of cooperation under difficult circumstances, and how they should continue the friendship reflected by the late soldier decades ago, experts from the two sides said at a symposium on Tuesday.

China-US relations are one of the most important bilateral relations in the world today, they said, adding that General Stilwell was a bridge for friendship between the two great powers. Both sides should cherish this friendship, enhance exchanges and mutual learning, improve understanding and mutual trust through more diverse channels, and cement the foundation for bilateral ties.

Stilwell, who died in 1946 and was a four-star general in the US Army, visited China five times between 1911 and 1944 and lived in China for 12 years.

To commemorate his outstanding contribution in the joint fight of China and the US against fascist aggression during World War II, the Chongqing government converted his former residence in the city into a museum and opened it to the public in 1994.

Stilwell is the only high-ranking US military figure who has a museum dedicated to his memory in China.

Zhao Baige, vice-chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the 12th National People's Congress of China (2013-18), said she was very impressed by General Stilwell's understanding about China, his love and care for Chinese common people, and the cooperation with the Communist Party of China during the war based on his views of the Party, not ideology.

"This series of commemorating events (of Stilwell on Tuesday) have enlightened us, giving us hope when our two countries are experiencing souring relations," she said.

"I am so delighted to see the children of the family, aged from 5 to 17, come to Chongqing to witness the legacy. They are the future of the friendship between China and the US."

Zhang Jiming, vice-president of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs, said China will never forget its old friends who have helped the Chinese people, and mutual understanding is the key to bilateral ties.

"We need to enhance mutual understanding and, in particular, have an objective and rational understanding of China and the CPC," he said.

Objective evaluation

"In the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45), General Stilwell advocated an objective evaluation of the role of the CPC. His courage still offers important enlightenment for today's Sino-US relations," he said.

Chas W. Freeman Jr, former US assistant secretary of defense, visited Chongqing in 1994, when he accompanied then-US secretary of defense William Perry to inaugurate the Stilwell museum.

"To me, Vinegar Joe (General Stilwell's nickname) personifies all the Americans who did their best to help China, when it most needed help.

"He and the museum dedicated to him symbolize a shared Sino-American history of cooperation under difficult circumstances, and inspire hope for renewed cooperation in the face of challenges and the common interests," he said.

Jan Berris, vice-president of the National Committee on US-China Relations in New York, recalled her interactions with the two daughters of General Stilwell, Nancy and Allison, who shared the desire to carry on their father's devotion to China and to promote positive and friendly relations between the Chinese and US peoples.

The two countries can overcome the current challenges through "hard work, commitment and mutual respect", Berris said.

"We are at a very difficult time in Sino-American relations. Events such as today's celebration remind us of the depth and breadth of the relations between our two countries and how much they need to be nurtured.

"The Stilwell family's devotion provides a wonderful example to us all of how deep and abiding and important such friendship can be."

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