Global Times Xi’s Footsteps: Xi’s visit to San Francisco injects stability, fosters people exchanges


While serving as then Party chief of Zhengding, North China’s Hebei Province 38 years ago, Xi Jinping made his maiden trip to the US with San Francisco as his first stop, marking his initial steps onto US soil. During this visit, Xi got acquainted with the US and built friendships with Americans that have lasted till today, an enduring testimony of the vitality of bilateral ties.

Decades later, Chinese President Xi once again set foot in San Francisco on Tuesday for a highly anticipated summit with US President Joe Biden and to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting this week. This time, the visit garnered worldwide attention as it is of great significance to both China-US relations and the world. San Francisco has again become an important witness to China-US relations.

In addition to the political aspect of this visit, it is also a reunion among old friends and a way to foster people-to-people exchanges, as the Chinese president pointed out, “the foundation of China-US relations was laid by our peoples.”

Along with a warm welcome at the airport for the Chinese delegation were throngs of bystanders waving Chinese and US flags along the presidential motorcade route, including in the San Francisco’s Chinatown, one of the largest outside Asia, on Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday morning, outside Filoli where the two heads of state met, hundreds of overseas Chinese nationals gathered to welcome Xi. Filoli is a secluded estate along Northern California’s coastal range and is about 40 kilometers south of San Francisco.

The Global Times learned that many at the venue came from other US cities thousands of miles away from San Francisco to warmly welcome President Xi. They talked about their excitement in this moment and their hope for the improvement of China-US relations.

A student based in California surnamed Shu told the Global Times that she felt so excited about participating in Xi’s welcome ceremony. And as a Chinese student studying in the US, she hopes to serve as a bridge between China and the US and contribute to the people exchanges between the two countries in the future.

Analysts pointed out that the visit is expected to inject stability into China-US relations and also shows the great importance attached by President Xi to people-to-people exchanges.

“I believe this summit between the heads of China and the US also echoes what President Xi has emphasized – the hope for China-US relations is in the people, and the need to continually expand people-to-people exchanges, including societal interactions with American entrepreneurs,” Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University, told the Global Times.

Diao Daming, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times that the high-level interactions between the two major powers can effectively anchor their bilateral relations and steer them in the right direction.

“This can largely contribute to the development, prosperity, and stability of the global economy by providing a strong sense of positive energy and certainty, which is extremely crucial,” he said.

Revisit San Francisco

Forty-two years ago, the first civil aviation route between China and the US was launched, with San Francisco becoming the inaugural destination for Chinese civil aviation.

Four years later, Xi visited the US for the first time and conducted inspections in San Francisco. Like other visitors, he took a photo with the Golden Gate Bridge.

At the Filoli estate on Wednesday, Biden pointed to a photo in his phone with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Biden asked Xi, “Do you know this young man?” “Oh yes,” said President Xi, “this was [me] 38 years ago.”

After the banquet, Xi and Biden took a short walk at the Filoli estate, built in 1917 as a private residence and later became a National Trust for Historic Preservation site.

In June 2013, during his inaugural visit to the US as the Chinese president, Xi discussed with then US president Barack Obama about the fostering of mutual trust and building of a new type of major-country relationship.

Xi’s visit to San Francisco this week is the first in six years, and has been a long time coming. The biggest outcome of this summit is to convey a message of “stability” to the world in the post-pandemic era, Diao told the Global Times.

This stability conveys a signal that there can be ongoing communication across various fields, while simultaneously creating greater possibilities for cooperation in these areas, he noted.

During his meeting with Biden on Wednesday, Xi urged China and the US to jointly advance mutually beneficial cooperation.

“The two countries have broad common interests in a wide range of areas, including traditional areas such as the economy, trade and agriculture, as well as emerging areas such as climate change and artificial intelligence (AI),” he said.

Old friends

At a welcome dinner by friendly organizations in the US on Wednesday, Xi stressed the role of people in China-US relations.

“The foundation of China-US relations was laid by our peoples,” Xi said, stressing that “the door of China-US relations was opened by our peoples,” “the stories of China-US relations are written by our peoples” and “the future of China-US relations will be created by our peoples.”

He also recalled his first interaction with American people. “During my first visit to the US, I stayed at the Dvorchaks in Iowa. I still remember their address – 2911 Bonnie Drive. That was my first face-to-face contact with Americans. The days I spent with them are unforgettable. For me, they represent America.”

At that time, Xi led a five-member agricultural delegation to investigate farm technology in Muscatine, located in the Midwestern state of Iowa, renowned for its significant role in the country’s corn and soybean agricultural production.

Since that time, the friendships between Xi and Dvorchak’s family and other friends in Iowa have continued to flourish. Xi and his old American friends reunited in Iowa after 27 years in 2012 when he visited the US as vice president.

“I thought he was a very nice, focused, polite man,” Eleanor Dvorchak once recounted. Xi was among the first Chinese friends the family got to know.

Gary Dvorchak, the son of Thomas and Eleanor Dvorchak and owner of the Sino-US Friendship House, participated in Wednesday’s events. The family hosted Xi during his 1985 visit to Muscatine. Xi slept in Gary’s the Star Trek-themed bedroom while he was away at university.

Gary Dvorchak told the Global Times that he felt “very excited and honored” to meet Xi on Wednesday.

He said that he planned to turn the house where Xi stayed into a museum, which would be open to the public after renovation in 2024, making it a symbol of China-US friendship.

He said that he strongly echoed Xi’s thoughts on the role of people in China-US relations. He believes Xi’s visit will set a positive tone and facilitate more interactions.

On Wednesday, China announced it would invite 50,000 young Americans to China on exchange and study programs over the next five years in order to expand exchanges between the peoples of China and the US, especially between the youth.

“It is crucial that this summit serves to provide a sober, scientific, and accurate signal for overall political and societal understanding and interpretation of US’ policy toward China today,” Zhu stressed.