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People-to-people exchanges key to ties: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-04-23 19:53

Descendants of Doolittle Raiders who were rescued by Chinese people during World War II present a souvenir to villagers of Fangyuan in Quzhou, Zhejiang province, on Tuesday. Huang Zongzhi / Xinhua

The Doolittle Raid in World War II has been, and always will be remembered as a testament to enduring friendship between China and the United States.

On April 18, 1942, just months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the US sent 16 B-25 bombers on an air raid to strike Japan's main islands. After bombing Tokyo and other Japanese cities, Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle and his fellow pilots, facing fuel shortages and bad weather, were forced to parachute over the eastern parts of China. Local Chinese launched a massive rescue operation, and helped 64 of the 80 US pilots escape to safety, many of whom found refuge in Quzhou, Zhejiang province.

The Chinese people paid a heavy price for their kindness and bravery: some 250,000 civilians were killed by Japanese troops seeking revenge for the raid.

Last week, descendants of the Doolittle Raiders visited Quzhou from Tuesday to Thursday to commemorate the rescue operation and express their gratitude to the Chinese people. Actually, a strong bond has been forged between the Doolittle Raid survivors, their descendants and the Chinese people. The Doolittle Raid Memorial Hall, which opened in Quzhou in 2018, has served as "a witness to the hardships endured by our ancestors and a symbol of cooperation and friendship between China and the US", as Jeff Thatcher, the son of a rescued US pilot, said at the opening ceremony.

Such people-to-people exchanges are the foundation for China-US relations, and cement the bond of friendship between the two countries, which has withstood various tests over the years to be passed from generation to generation.

It is their shared belief in the importance of that bond that prompted the top leaders of the two countries to reach a consensus during their summit in San Francisco last November that they will work out more measures to promote people-to-people exchanges, including increasing direct passenger flights, holding a high-level dialogue on tourism, and streamlining visa application procedures.

The Chinese leader also announced a program for 50,000 US youths to visit China over the next five years for exchanges and study, saying the future of the Sino-US relationship depends on the two countries' youth.

More than 20 Muscatine High School students from Iowa paid an exchange visit to Beijing, Shanghai and Hebei province from Jan 24 to 30 as the first group of US students to visit China under the program.

Sino-US relations are experiencing one of the most difficult times, mainly as a result of China hawks in the US political circles seeing the country as the greatest threat and No 1 adversary to the US and taking all steps possible to contain its rise. It is therefore all the more necessary for the two peoples to reach out to each other. It is hoped that the goodwill and friendship that exist between them will help Beijing and Washington transcend their differences and bring their relationship back to the normal track.

In a positive sign in that direction San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced in Beijing on Friday that her city will receive a pair of pandas as a symbol of friendship from China next year. The pandas will add a new chapter to Sino-US friendship in the new era.

As former US president Richard Nixon said more than half a century ago, "the Chinese people are a great people, the American people are a great people. If our two peoples are enemies the future of this world we share together is dark indeed. But if we can find common ground to work together, the chance for world peace is immeasurably increased."

His words still ring true.

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