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Interview: Former U.S. state legislator says Xi-Biden summit “desperately needed” for bilateral relations

The recent summit between Chinese and U.S. presidents in California is “desperately needed” for bilateral relations, Greg Cusack, a former member of the U.S. state of Iowa House of Representatives, has said.

“What I was struck by — and pleasing so — was how both presidents, Xi (Jinping) and (Joe) Biden, made a real effort to extend courtesy and friendship to each other and to express wishes for cooperation and making a better effort working together for the future,” Cusack told Xinhua in a recent interview after the summit, which was held on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting.

“I think that’s desperately needed,” he said. “And in this country in particular, it’s a change of rhetoric, which is long overdue.”

“A REALISTIC PICTURE”

Cusack, who served in the Iowa state legislature from 1973 to 1981, said, “there is a long tradition in this country of blaming someone else for the problems we face,” which to a certain extent contributed to the deterioration in bilateral relations in recent years.

China is often blamed in the United States for the negative impacts brought by decisions made by business and corporate leaders on U.S. communities and workers, Cusack said.

“We transfer rage and aggression to somebody else without looking in the mirror at our own problems,” he said.

The former U.S. state legislator noted that the United States needs to have a realistic picture of what actually is going on.

The United States has military bases around the world and has navies regularly patrolling off the shore of China, he said, adding that China, on the other hand, “has shown no interest in territorial grabs,” and its long history does not demonstrate a dominating power.

“China’s record shows that it is a peaceful country, it has a peaceful people, an advanced culture that stresses wisdom, tolerance, acceptance,” he said.

BURDEN FALLS ON U.S. SHOULDERS

On the Taiwan question, Cusack said the best way for the United States to ease the tensions was to “scale down the U.S. military support for Taiwan, reemphasize the one-China principle and develop peaceful U.S.-China cooperation.”

“We have substituted too much blatant rhetoric for diplomacy. And diplomacy is best conducted with courtesy and listening attentiveness,” he said.

Commenting on Xi’s call for the two countries to build together “five pillars” for bilateral relations, the former U.S. lawmaker said Xi’s proposals are “a beautiful summary of what should be done, and much of this burden falls on U.S. shoulders.”

“NON FEIGNED FRIENDSHIP”

Cusack said it is good to see Biden and Xi talk and come to agreement like this, “but we’ve got to get people at all levels talking like this.”

He thinks that people-to-people exchanges of all sorts, including politicians from both countries, “would be a wonderful way to start learning from each other.”

“I think if more American people go to China and experience the beauty of rural China, the magnificence of her cities, her fine universities, the friendliness of her people,” things would change entirely, he said.

“What we have in common is who we are as farmers, as students, as parents, as grandparents, that overwhelms any political differences,” he said.

Xi’s emphasis on the importance of people-to-people exchanges and connections is one of the most encouraging things, Cusack noted.

“I’ve learned that in my life too. It’s a way to overcome biases, prejudices, ignorance, and to build trust and realize how easy it is to like each other,” he said.

Cusack, who was born in Iowa and worked in the farm state for years, told Xinhua that he vividly remembered the press coverage of Xi’s two visits to Iowa in 1985 and in 2012.

“I was struck by the non-feigned friendship. It was apparent that people liked each other and we enjoyed being with each other. The spontaneity of it was amazing and refreshing,” Cusack said.

“And the fact that he was so effusively warm to the people that hosted him and their spontaneity reaction back says a lot about the warmth and goodness of that man,” he said.

PARTNERSHIP NEEDED

The former U.S. state legislator hopes the two sides could be more active and true partners with respect to addressing the urgent need to confront and off-set global warming, among others.

China and the United States should lead the emissions control around the world, he said.

Cusack added that a war between major powers in this century would be unthinkable. “So I think we need to always choose peace. And that means we need to choose each other. We can’t afford to turn away,” he said.

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