Published on 5/2009 | The Washington Diplomat
In late 2007, Hillary Clinton — then a candidate for president — observed that “America’s relationship with China will be the most important bilateral relationship in the world this century.”
The 2009 Opinion Leaders Dinner Forum, whose theme was “China and the United States: A Vital Partnership,” marked the first time that so many senior Chinese diplomats and U.S. media heavyweights have shared a meal and hospitality in the nation’s capital. These included Gerard Baker and Jerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal; David Broder of the Washington Post; Thomas Omestad of US News & World Report; and Judy Woodruff of PBS’s “The News Hour With Jim Lehrer.”
Eagleburger — who along with Henry Kissinger was closely involved with the Nixon administration’s efforts to forge initial relations between Washington and Beijing — is the only Foreign Service officer to have been named secretary of state. As such, the veteran diplomat presented Zhou with a portrait of himself by noted artist Peter Max, who was raised in Shanghai and has painted portraits, posters and installations for six U.S. presidents from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama.
Considering the venue, this clearly wasn’t the moment to discuss China’s persistent human rights abuses, its detention of journalists or Beijing’s burgeoning trade surplus in the face of U.S. economic pain. In fact, Zhou hammered home the “harmony” theme, noting that harmony — pronounced “hé xié” in Mandarin — is one of the most often used words in China.
IFE, which sponsored the event, says its mission is “to recognize, encourage and promote civility and leadership locally, nationally and in the world community.” The Washington-based group says it “also encourages youth global citizenship with programs that foster intercultural understanding.”
Before stepping down to enjoy the rest of the evening — including a classical music performance by pianist Jiayne Yang and violinist Ying Jin — Ambassador Zhou thanked the many print and broadcast journalists in attendance for their hard work.