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International Relations

HOME > International Relations


Feature: A China perceived by Adlai Stevenson III over 40 years of its opening-up

October 10, 2018


Abstract : That is a trip he will never forget. In August 1975, as a member of the U.S. first Congressional delegation to China, Adlai Ewing Stevenson III visited China for the first time.

CHICAGO, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- That is a trip he will never forget. In August 1975, as a member of the U.S. first Congressional delegation to China, Adlai Ewing Stevenson III visited China for the first time.

Stevenson remembered the delegation arrived in Shanghai before taking train to Beijing, where they met then Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping.

The U.S. legislators visited China's major cities and rural areas during the 10-day trip. What he perceived then was poverty and the alienation of the people. "People in the streets did not dare be seen talking to foreigners."

"I remember bicycles. I don't remember any automobiles except our own automobiles." That was Stevenson's first impression of China.

Four years afterwards in 1979, Deng visited the United States, and Stevenson was in his company. "I gave him a tour of Washington, took him to the Jefferson Memorial and showed him our Capitol."

"He was not a great communicator," Stevenson told Xinhua. But "he began the reform, and changed the world."

Coming from a political family in the U.S. state of Illinois and serving as U.S. senator from 1970 to 1981, Stevenson has had many chances to visit China in different capacities after retiring from politics.

He launched a joint venture in China to introduce advanced communication technologies in the 1990s, and acted as co-chairman of Huamei Capital, a U.S.-China joint venture located in Chicago helping Chinese companies to invest in North American market in the 2000s.

As the chairman of the non-profit Midwest U.S.-China Association, Stevenson co-hosted China-U.S. West Economic Cooperation Forum in Beijing in 2005.

"I commuted back and forth. Every time I went back to China, it was a different China by every dimension," recalled Stevenson, who is now an honorary professor of China's Renmin University.

"It became more and more developed, more and more crowded. Buildings are everywhere and streets are filled with automobiles, just a totally different country," he said.

"We tried to travel by train so we can see China on the ground, but pretty soon we were traveling by plane and then we could reach more places in China," he added.

Stevenson praised China's achievements in its "very rapid" development since reform and opening-up.

"China never has so many people lifted out of poverty so fast ... and its opening up and economic reforms began only 40 years ago," he said.

"We started the Internet for China, now China has more Internet users than in the U.S.," Stevenson said. "China's development has been very, very, very, very rapid."

"It is much more open to foreign investment; it has cracked down on corruption," he commented.

"The changes are too big and too many to enumerate," Stevenson stressed.

And China has gone further beyond those. "China now promotes the development of other countries through investment in infrastructure... Now China's influence spreads everywhere with its investment," he added.

Besides family photos, most of the photos presented on the wall and on the table in Stevenson's study were either taken in China or showing Stevenson being together with Chinese people.

"Now I travel and speak freely in China, and in English," Stevenson said with a happy smile. "I may have more good friends in China than here in the United States."

Stevenson still remembered well his last trip to China in May 2016. "Three reception dinners were given in my honor, and I have friends from all over, new friends as well as old, join me to welcome me, toast me."

"They all joined together and sang Auld Lang Syne. That was very touching," the 88-year-old said. "I would love to go back." 


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