Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday sent a congratulatory letter to a forum on people-to-people friendship between China and the United States.
The event, titled “Bond with Kuliang: 2023 China-U.S. People-to-People Friendship Forum,” is being held in Fuzhou, east China’s Fujian Province.
In the letter, Xi said that back in 1992, he invited Mrs. Elizabeth Gardner to Kuliang, helping her fulfill the wish of her late husband to return to his childhood home. In the following 30 years and more, members of the Kuliang Friends and people from various sectors of both countries have delved deep into the history of this town, actively spread its culture, and worked tirelessly to deepen mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.
“I was very glad to hear from members of the Kuliang Friends, and to know from your letter more touching stories about your connection with Kuliang,” said Xi in the letter. He pointed out among them are Mr. Len Billing, 103 years old, who recorded his time in Kuliang with many photos; Dr. E. L. Bliss, who wrote “I love the Chinese people” as his last words; and Mr. Donald Maclnnis, who wanted to have his ashes scattered in the Minjiang River.
“Their stories have shown once again that the Chinese and American peoples can transcend differences in system, culture and language, and build profound friendship,” said Xi.
Amity between peoples holds the key to the relationship between countries, and the people are the cornerstone of its growth, Xi said. “I hope that you will continue to write the Kuliang story and carry forward the special bonds, so that the friendship between our two peoples can stay forever strong and robust like the thousand-year-old cedar trees in Kuliang.”
The Kuliang story is a widely told one about Xi’s personal efforts to promote friendly exchanges between Chinese and American peoples. In 1901, Milton Gardner, born in the United States, came to live in Fuzhou with his parents when he was still in his infancy, and his whole family moved back to the United States in 1911. Gardner had been longing for revisiting his childhood home, but had never been able to make his wish fulfilled. With assistance from Chinese students in the United States, Mrs. Elizabeth Gardner finally came to know the place his husband had been dreaming of is Kuliang in Fuzhou.
In 1992, Xi Jinping, who was then secretary of the Communist Party of China Fuzhou Municipal Committee, invited Mrs. Elizabeth Gardner to visit China. In 2012, when visiting the United States as China’s vice president, Xi shared the Kuliang story with the audience at a welcome luncheon held by American friendly groups, drawing warm response from all sectors in the two countries.
The Forum, jointly held by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the government of Fujian Province, was attended by people from various sectors in China and the United States including some members of the Kuliang Friends.