It All Starts Here, in a Light-Hearted Way

The China-US summit at the historic Filoli estate in the American city of San Francisco took place on Wednesday morning local time.

The China-US summit at the historic Filoli estate in the American city of San Francisco took place on Wednesday morning local time. It was early Thursday morning in China.

Some may see the time difference as a symbol of frictions that the two countries have found themselves in for most of the past five years.

In that sense, the summit turned out to be a quite good one. 

Both sides described it as productive and expressed satisfaction with some tangible results. Dialogue and cooperation will be promoted in such areas as AI and counter-fentanyl efforts. High-level communication between the two militaries will be resumed. A significant number of scheduled passenger flights will be increased early next year, and bilateral exchanges in education, overseas students, youth, culture, sports and between the business communities will be strengthened.  

To add to the positive note, the Xi-Biden meeting contributed to Thursday’s major trending topics on Weibo, the Chinese version of X, formerly known as Twitter.

One involves US President Joe Biden, while saying good-bye to Chinese President Xi Jinping, acclaimed the latter’s official vehicle, a China-made Hongqi or Red Flag limousine, as “beautiful”. Biden even told Xi that his official vehicle, a Cadillac, is nicknamed Beast. 

Another one topping the trending list for half a day was about the interaction between the two presidents concerning a photograph of Xi Jinping taken in spring of 1985 when he first visited the US as the top official of a county in north China’s Hebei Province. San Francisco was the very first stop of his trip and as most other visitors to the city, Xi Jinping had his obligatory visitor picture taken against the Golden State Bridge.

Biden showed Xi the picture in his cell phone and asked: “Do you know this young man in the picture?” 

Xi smiled: “Yes, I do know him. He was me 38 years ago.” 

One Chinese netizens commented under the post that the US president is a man with humor. 

Such a light-hearted exchange was a stark contrast with the tense atmosphere brewing before the summit took place. 

So much was at stake. The raging wars and conflicts, the economic woes, and the worsening climate situation all need cooperation between the world’s top two economies. But their relationship keeps going south, veering off-track into a conflict that could easily going out of control.

For some international observers, the hilly San Francisco may be chosen as the host to exactly reflect the harsh realities faced by China and the US to stabilize the most important diplomatic relationship on the planet. 

In retrospect, San Francisco may be the most fitting place to host the highly anticipated China-US summit.

About 158 years ago, a large number of Chinese workers arrived in the US to construct the Pacific Railway. And they set up the oldest China Town in the West Hemisphere in San Francisco. Starting from here, China and the US witnessed their bilateral trade volume reaching as high as 760 billion US dollar.

There are more reasons. 

To be honest, most American cities are strangers to Chinese. San Francisco is definitely not one of them. For some Chinese, it even strikes a familiar tone at home. Its winding streets over the steep terrains reminds them of Chongqing, a mountainous city in southwest China.

Fewer American news media mentions another obvious fact. On April 25, 1945, when the World War Two was coming to an end, San Francisco hosted the Conference of the United Nations on International Organizations to draft the charter of a world security organization. After 51 days of negotiations, the conference concluded on June 26 with the signing of The Charter of the United Nations, the founding document of the UN. It was signed by representatives of 50 countries, including one from China and one from the US. Those 50 countries, plus Poland, became the 51 founding members of the UN. 

78 years later. The world is again at a crossroad. And it’s San Francisco’s time again. How fitting is that!

Two months ago, San Francisco launched an Ad campaign titled “It All Starts Here”. The 4 million US dollar-campaign aims to remind the world “why San Francisco has been, and will always be, one of the greatest cities”. 

“It All Starts Here” was true 158 years ago when San Francisco became the starting point for China-US interaction. 

It was true 78 years ago when the city witnessed the emergence of a functional world order on the ashes of a devastating war, due to cooperative spirit displayed by China, the US and other countries. 

Now the history calls! It’s the high time to remind San Francisco natives and the rest of the world that the city could be a starting point again to overcome the daunting challenges the world is now facing.  

The future is not necessarily gloomy.

Liu Kun
Liu Kun
CGTN Radio Host and former Washington Bureau Chief of China Radio International