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Culture helps ease fraught US-China ties

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Washington | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-09-05 09:40

Dancers from the Beijing Dance Academy perform at the 21st Washington Chinese Cultural Festival on Saturday in Washington. ZHAO HUANXIN/CHINA DAILY

Differences between civilizations should not be cause of conflict: Envoy

Beijing's top envoy in Washington has called for ramping up cultural exchanges to enhance understanding between China and the United States and help improve the fraught bilateral relations.

Speaking at the 21st Washington Chinese Cultural Festival held downtown in the capital on Saturday, Ambassador Xie Feng said both China and the US are multiethnic, multicultural countries, whose hardworking and talented people "share the same guts, grit and gusto" to chase their dreams.

"Be it coffee or tea, each is there for its own reason. Differences between civilizations should not be the cause of conflict, but should be the impetus for progress," he said on a stage on Pennsylvania Avenue near Capitol Hill.

"Let's open our minds, appreciate the beauty in each other's culture, break down barriers, and strengthen cultural ties so that we will understand each other better and grow our friendship, and bring more positive energy into China-US relations," he said.

The annual festival was started in 1999. It ran for 20 years — except for 2001 — in a row before being suspended during the pandemic.

Through food, music, dancing, and traditional performances and ceremonies, the event offers a window to see the beauty and variety of Chinese culture, while helping build a bridge of friendship between China and the US, its organizers said.

"This is really a great event. It's hot weather, but I think people's enthusiasm about the cultural exchanges is even hotter," Xie told China Daily in an interview.

"So I hope that together with this festival, the exchanges and friendship between the Chinese and American people will further grow," the ambassador said.

Asked about the status quo on the people-to-people exchange between the two countries, Xie said he had noted some progress, but "still a lot needs to be done".

Over the past few months, the two countries have stepped up efforts to stabilize their tense relations, beginning with a series of trips of high-level officials.

In the tourism sector, earlier last month, China lifted pandemic-era restrictions on group tours for more countries, including the US, a key market.

The US Travel Association said in a release on Tuesday that a complete rebound in Chinese visitation to 2019 levels would boost the US economy with an additional 2 million visitors a year and more than $11 billion in export spending.

Tourism cooperation

The two countries have agreed to hold a tourism summit in the first half of next year in China to revive their once booming tourism cooperation, China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism said last week.

In a congratulatory message to the Washington Chinese Cultural Festival, US President Joe Biden said the US has been "immeasurably" enriched by the vast contributions of Chinese Americans, with countless Chinese immigrants helping to shape the nation's character.

Biden said that for over two decades, the Festival has been a "wonderful" occasion to celebrate the proud heritage and wide breadth of achievements of the Chinese-American community.

Beijing, a sister city of Washington, sent a delegation to attend the festival.

One of the delegation members was Yang Hao, a teacher at the Beijing Dance Academy. She led a group of eight young dancers to Washington, the first such group ever to fly from Beijing to the city since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The dancers performed dances of various ethnic groups in China, including Han, Uygur, and Tibetan styles, drawing cheers and ovations from the audience.

Jane Pennewell, a resident of Falls Church, Virginia, was on the front row watching the Chinese folk dances, Chinese opera, and music.

"I thoroughly enjoyed it, every minute of it. I mean, I just couldn't believe how talented the individuals are and how they conformed — all in sync," said Pennewell, an artist who runs JP Image Consulting.

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