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Tourism a pillar for future relations

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington | | Updated: 2016-11-21 15:08
Tourism a pillar for future relations

Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang speaks at the closing ceremony of the 2016 China-US Tourism Year in Washington. [Photo by Chen Weihua/]

Top Chinese and US leaders have high hopes for growing bilateral relations between the two nations by boosting two-way tourism.

President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama sent their congratulations to participants of the closing ceremony of the 2016 China-US Tourism Year on Sunday evening at the Warner Theater in Washington.

Xi recalled the announcement that he and Obama made in September 2015 to hold the China-US Tourism Year, saying the decision was made "to promote the building of a new model of major country relationship, pushing forward practical cooperation, and enhancing people-to-people friendship between our two countries".

He said the tourism year has been marked with colorful and fruitful events, which helped to expand people-to-people exchanges and practical cooperation in various areas, and inject new impetus into China-US relations.

"The growth of China-US relations requires the participation and support of our peoples. I hope the two sides will build on the success of the China-US Tourism Year to sustain the momentum of people-to-people and cultural exchanges, enhance mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples, and reinforce the social foundation for the development of China-US relations," Xi said in the letter, read by Vice-Premier Wang Yang, who led a Chinese delegation to attend the closing ceremony and the China-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade to be held in Washington this week.

In a letter read by US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Obama said the US-China Tourism Year has enabled the American and Chinese peoples to experience new cultures, explore new places and get to know each other.

"A future of peace and prosperity and friendship depends on our efforts to understand each other. That is why the United States will continue to welcome the Chinese people to our shores, whether to hike to our national parks, dine in our vibrant cities, or learn more about our rich history. I also encourage Americans to discover all China has to offer," Obama said.

Xi and Obama just met on Saturday in Lima, Peru, on the sidelines of the APEC Leaders' Meeting.

The 2016 China-US Tourism Year was announced by Xi and Obama last September during Xi's state visit to the US. An opening ceremony was held in Beijing in February this year.

In the first three quarters of this year, the number of Chinese travelers to the US jumped by 14.7 percent over the same period last year while the number of US travelers to China rose by 7.3 percent. Total number of two-way Chinese and American travelers is expected to exceed 5 million this year.

Last year, Chinese tourists made 2.59 million trips to the US, with total spending estimated at $30.1 billion. This year, Chinese are expected to make more than 3 million trips, creating some 45,000 direct jobs and 230,000 indirect jobs in the US, according to Wang.

The vice-premier said China is willing to make concerted efforts with the US side to further facilitate visa policies and to provide more convenient, comfortable and safe services to tourists.

He also pledged to further open the tourism industry to foreign investors. "The China-US Tourism Year is drawing to a close, but the show of tourism cooperation between the two countries has just begun," Wang said, ahead of an evening concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra and China's National Center for the Performing Arts Orchestra.

The two orchestras have a close collaboration for many years. The Philadelphia Orchestra was the first US orchestra to visit China in 1973 at the invitation of then-US president Richard Nixon, who made his historic trip to China a year earlier.

Pritzker recalled her first trip to China in 1984 when she visited the Great Wall in Beijing and the Bund in Shanghai. "Looking back, what I am most grateful for has been the opportunity to see China then, so I could appreciate what it is growing to today," said Pritzker, who has made many business and leisure trips to China since then.

"I witnessed China's incredible evolution into one of the most remarkable and popular tourist destinations in the world," she said.

US Ambassador to China Max Baucus cited the Chinese saying that "reading 10,000 books is not as good as walking 10,000 miles".

"You need to get out and experience that country," he said.

Baucus, who has been in Beijing for about three years, said one of his great joys is going out to meet as many people as he can.

He said through traveling he felt that people either in the United States or China or elsewhere in the world want basically the same thing. "We all want good jobs, we all want to make ends meet, we want good education for our kids, we want clean environment to live in, clean air to breathe," he said.


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