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Xiplomacy: Xi’s Letters to American Friends Inspire People’s Interactions Between China, U.S.

“I am glad to see that General’s dedication to friendship between China and the United States has been passed down to the fifth generation of his family,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday when replying to a letter from John Easterbrook, grandson of former U.S. General Joseph Stilwell.

Joseph Stilwell, a former U.S. general, served as commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II. Throughout his 42-year military service, Stilwell made five visits to China and lived in the country for 12 years.

Stilwell was an old friend of the Chinese people, who gave active support to China’s cause of liberation and progress and made positive contributions to the friendship between the two peoples, which the Chinese people will never forget, Xi wrote in the reply letter.

Easterbrook told Xinhua that his intention in writing the letter was to tell Xi that the Stilwell family has always been committed to promoting people-to-people friendship between China and the United States.

In the letter, he paid tribute to Xi’s long-term support for cultural exchanges between the United States and China and expressed the Stilwell family’s wish and determination to promote cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

In his reply, Xi thanked Easterbrook for sharing the story about the friendly exchanges between General Stilwell and several generations of the Stilwell family and China. Xi said that from the Stilwell family, he felt the goodwill of the American people towards the Chinese people.

Marking the 140th birth anniversary of Joseph Stilwell, a series of commemorative events were organized in early August in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality.

Over 150 attendees, including descendants of Stilwell, government representatives from both China and the United States, experts, and scholars, participated in these events. Easterbrook, in his 80s, delivered a video speech, and his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren were present in Chongqing.

Joseph W. Stilwell is the grandson of former U.S. Army General Joseph Warren Stilwell, who helped the Chinese government and people to fight against Japanese aggression. Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday granted medals to 10 international anti-fascist fighters who fought for China in World War II. (Xinhua/Liu Jinhai) 

“Chinese people never forget a friend,” said Easterbrook.

Tao Yan, the curator of the Stilwell Museum in Chongqing, said reviewing the glorious history of General Stilwell who stood side by side with the Chinese people facilitates the inheritance of the precious friendship between the two peoples.

Easterbrook, who has visited China 17 times and had countless contacts and exchanges with the Chinese people, said he was deeply impressed by the way the Chinese people treat others.

“I have faith in the Chinese soldiers and the Chinese people, fundamentally great democratic, no bars of caste or religion, honest, frugal, industrious, cheerful, independent, tolerant, friendly, and courteous,” Easterbrook read the quotes of General Stilwell to Xinhua.

“And I might add,” Easterbrook continued. “We still see that in the Chinese people today.”

Nancy Easterbrook Millward, John Easterbrook’s daughter, said they feel very fortunate to introduce the Chinese culture and the Chinese people to their children “to really understand their great, great-grandfather’s legacy in China.”

Noting the children were able to meet some other children their age in China, she said they were “hoping that is just the start of new friendships moving forward.”

In his letter, Xi invited the Stilwell family to visit China in the future, expressing his hope that Easterbrook and other members of the Stilwell family would continue to contribute to the development of friendship between the Chinese and U.S. people.

In another recent reply to a letter from the U.S.-China Youth and Student Exchange Association and friendly personages from all walks of life in the U.S. state of Washington, Xi stressed that the hope and foundation of the China-U.S. relationship lie in the people, and its future lies in the youths.

He hopes more youths from China and the United States can get to know each other, move forward together, become generational ambassadors of bilateral friendship, and continuously inject impetus into the development of bilateral ties.

“Through the exchanges, the friendship between the young people of China and the United States has grown, and the understanding and respect for each other deepened,” said David Chong, founder and president of the U.S.-China Youth and Student Exchange Association.

The correspondence between Xi and his American friends has inspired people from various walks of life. “I’m very glad that the president heard about us because I want him to know how thankful I am and have a lot of gratitude,” said Chancy Williams, a student from the Steilacoom High School in the U.S. state of Washington.

Recalling a trip to China in July, Williams said he enjoyed every moment in China, and the most unforgettable experiences were appreciating Chinese traditional operas, trying on traditional costumes, and learning to sing songs.

Ron Chow, co-chair of the U.S.-China Youth and Student Exchange Association, told Xinhua that he has been involved in youth exchange activities between the two countries for many years, and has been witnessing the genuine sincerity and friendship that the youths of both countries show towards each other.

He said he believes that the profound emotions between young people hold significant importance for the future development of the relationship between the two countries. Chow added that such exchanges can establish a strong bridge of friendship and sow countless seeds of friendship in the hearts of the American people.

When meeting with Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in June, Xi also said the foundation of China-U.S. relations lies in the people. “We have always placed our hope on the American people and wish all the best for the friendship between the two peoples,” he said.

The interactions between Xi and his American friends, linking hearts across the Pacific, are just a microcosm of the broader scope of exchanges between China and the United States, promoting the stability of the China-U.S. relationship.

As Xi said in many speeches, “amity between people holds the key to sound relations between states.”