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Jimmy Carter hopeful on US-China ties

This file photo dated Sept 12, 2018 shows former US President Jimmy Carter answering questions from students.
(CURTIS COMPTON / ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION VIA AP)

Former US president Jimmy Carter believes that the leaders of the United States and China have a shared goal of creating "peaceful and stable conditions for their people to pursue happiness".

Carter relayed his observations on the bilateral relationship in a recent discussion with David Firestein, president and chief executive of the George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations, also known as the Bush China Foundation.

The discussion was published by the US-China Perception Monitor, an online publication that explores perceptions and misperceptions in US-China relations. The publication is operated by China Focus of the Carter Center.

The Chinese and US governments should address issues such as intellectual property rights, technology transfer, state subsidies, and non-tariff barriers, said former US president Jimmy Carter, adding that the weaponizing of trade issues hurts the citizens of both countries

Carter, 96, acknowledged that the relationship is at its lowest point in years: "In January 2019, the Carter Center held a three-day meeting to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the normalization of US-China relations. Our being the only US-based organization to do this is a stark indication of how the bilateral landscape has changed in recent years."

Carter, who was in the White House from 1977 to 1981, said the trade relationship between the two largest economies is one of the most important in the world despite some fundamental differences at the political level.

"Since (then leader) Deng Xiaoping and I made the joint decision to normalize relations 42 years ago, both countries have reaped countless benefits," Carter said. "Even in a competitive economic environment, there is room for mutual growth and cooperation. Our societies are entwined, and our governments need to protect this important societal and economic connection."

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The Chinese and US governments should address issues such as intellectual property rights, technology transfer, state subsidies, and non-tariff barriers, said Carter, adding that the weaponizing of trade issues hurts the citizens of both countries.

"I'm a farmer, and I know China imports vast quantities of American agricultural products. The current trade war has prevented American exports from reaching Chinese markets," he said.

While the official diplomatic relationship between our countries is just four decades old, we have had positive interactions for centuries … I am hopeful about the prospects for building our futures together. I am confident that both the American and Chinese people desire peace and prosperity.

Jimmy Carter, former US president

Carter said that some global challenges require cooperation. "Global warming, nuclear proliferation, international terrorism, and various regional conflicts could best be resolved with leadership and participation from Washington and Beijing," he said.

Carter said that in the past four decades, the leaders of both countries made peace their priority: "Most important, in my opinion, has been four decades of peace in East Asia and the Pacific," he said.

In Carter's view, the US has benefited from the engagement. "Trade and investment with China have advanced our economy," he said. "New jobs were created. Tourism has flourished.

"Chinese merchandise has made ordinary Americans' lives better. Our universities and colleges welcomed thousands of Chinese students and scholars. Our institutions have gained from the talent of Chinese researchers, and their American experience has influenced modern China."

Vital relationship

Carter said that he is hopeful about the vital relationship.

"While the official diplomatic relationship between our countries is just four decades old, we have had positive interactions for centuries," he said. "I am hopeful about the prospects for building our futures together. I am confident that both the American and Chinese people desire peace and prosperity.

In a message before the discussion, Neil Bush, the founder and chairman of the Bush China Foundation, said that his father's vision for the US-China relationship-informed by his service as the US' envoy to China in the mid-1970s-aligned with Carter's vision.

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Chip Carter, a son of the ex-president, said that he and Neil Bush have had the opportunity to "continue our fathers' shared legacies together".

"In addition to both playing a role in our families' legacies on US-China relations, Neil and I have found that we share common ground on other topics as well," he said. "At a time when our country is divided along party lines, it's refreshing that our families can come together to work on a common goal."

mayzhou@chinadailyusa.com