President Bush's whole family has come to Beijing, with George H.W. Bush as the honorary leader of the American Olympic delegation and George W. Bush as the leader of the American cheering squad. His beautiful daughter Barbara is also waving the American flag and cheering in the stadiums. The family seems to draw more attention than the athletes. However, the "First Family" didn't come to Beijing merely to watch the Olympics.
A few days earlier, President Hu Jintao invited President Bush and his family to dinner at Zhongnanhai. Before the meal, Hu told him, "Since you assumed office, you have come to China four times, more than any other American president. This signifies the importance of your role in Sino-American relations."
34 years ago, China and America had not yet established diplomatic relations. President Bush's father was ambassador to China at the time. According to the "China Diary" written by George H.W. Bush, he and his wife Barbara served as envoys to China for 14 months from 1974 to 1975. At that time China was nearing the end of the Cultural Revolution, and George H.W. Bush could not often meet with Chinese government officials. He and his wife had plenty of time to ride bicycles around Beijing's hutongs and to try to understand the lives of average Chinese. When he was interviewed a few days ago in Beijing by the Washington Post, he said that at that time, they made new discoveries every day.
When Bush Senior was about to leave Beijing for America to serve as CIA Director, Deng Xiaoping held a farewell meal for him in the Great Hall of the People, and jokingly asked Bush if he had been spying on him the whole time. Bush wrote in his diary that the other diplomats in Beijing were very envious of him, because Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese leader they could never get the chance to meet. But Bush also said that after he became President, it was difficult for him to even make a phone call to the Chinese leader. Since then, times have changed. "Today President Hu and President Bush talk back and forth. You couldn't do that back then. It's a dramatic change."
Bush Senior told the Washington Post reporter that the freedom and rights enjoyed by the Chinese people today are incomparable to the situation when he was the ambassador to China. It is wrong for those who are dissatisfied with the Chinese government to overlook the progress that has been made. Regarding those who want to disrupt the Olympic Games, Bush said, "I would be totally out of sympathy with that. Remember the big flurry -- the president has got to boycott the opening ceremony? Well, he didn't do that…And I think the fact that he made that decision had a lot to do with others' approach to it." As the honorary leader of the US Olympic team, Bush Senior came to Beijing in order to "give credit" to the progress China has made over the past 30 years.
When President Bush's parents were ambassadors to China, he came to Beijing to visit them, and also rode a bicycle through Beijing's streets. A few days ago when he was interviewed by an NBC sports reporter, President Bush said, from then to now, the "changes are unbelievable." Concerning his reasons for attending the Olympics opening ceremony, he said he was not only here to cheer on the US team, but to improve relations between the US and China. He said that China plays an important role in dealing with the conflicts in North Korea, Iran, and Darfur.
In the eyes of President Bush's father, China has changed in three major ways in the past 30 years: first, economic growth has improved the living standards of the Chinese people and has advanced human rights and individual freedoms. Second, Chinese leaders are now more open and approachable, and they respect different opinions. Third, the strategic and economic interests of China and the US are growing closer to the point where what harms or benefits one will also harm or benefit the other.
Of course, this does not mean that President Bush completely agrees with Chinese political actions. Before he arrived in Beijing, he criticized some of China's domestic policies while in Bangkok. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Bush's words were an unacceptable interference in China's internal affairs. Just like Bush Senior said, it is very important for national leaders to build good personal friendships with each other, although one cannot equate personal friendships with supporting all policies made by other leaders.
In actuality, in George H.W. Bush's point of view, the ways in which China has changed and the ways in which it has not changed are central to the current and future conflicts between China and the West. It is fortunate that President Bush also believes, "Ultimately only China can decide what course it will follow."
By People's Daily Online