The first China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue began on a relaxed and friendly note on Monday with leaders from both countries using wisdom from one another's cultures in their opening remarks.
China's State Councilor Dai Bingguo (L) and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton depart following a joint statement after the first meeting of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, July 28, 2009. [Agencies]
While admitting he did not have the fluent Putonghua of Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who is likely to become the US ambassador to China, US President Barack Obama displayed a knowledge of Chinese history when he quoted ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius during his welcoming address in the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC.
"A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an equally short time," Obama said. "Our task is to forge a path to the future that we seek for our children - to prevent mistrust or the inevitable differences of the moment from allowing that trail to be blocked by grass; to always be mindful of the journey that we are undertaking together."
Obama also quoted Yao Ming, the Chinese basketball player who is a member of the Houston Rockets, to emphasize the importance of dialogue between China and the US.
"As a new president and also as a basketball fan, I have learned from the words of Yao Ming, who said, 'No matter whether you are new or an old team member, you need time to adjust to one another,'" Obama said. "Well, through the constructive meetings that we've already had, and through this dialogue, I'm confident that we will meet Yao's standard."
In her opening speech, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed the importance of China-US cooperation by citing a Chinese proverb.
"When people are of one mind and heart, they can move Mountain Tai," a mountain of cultural significance in Shandong province, she said.
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has spent time studying in China, spoke positively of the country's development in the past 30 years and called for China and the US to work together on mitigating the global economic crisis. Geithner also used a Chinese expression, saying the countries would be "taking the same boat through rain and wind".
Geithner's comment was similar to what Clinton said when she spoke at the Asia Society in New York in February before her trip to Asia.
"'When you are in a common boat, you need to cross the river peacefully together.' The wisdom of that aphorism must continue to guide us today," she said at the time.
State Councilor Dai Binguo asked senior officials "can we make it?" as he spoke about creating a better future for bilateral relations. And he received applause and laughter from across the hall by answering his own question in English with Obama's presidential campaign slogan: "yes, we can".