Annual exchange presents opportunity to further cultivate our relationship.

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In 1784, just eight years after the founding of the United States, the U.S. merchant ship Empress of China called at Guangzhou, marking the beginning of people-to-people exchange between China and the U.S. More than 60 years ago, China and America fought shoulder-to-shoulder in the anti-fascist war, forging a deep friendship. People-to-people exchange has helped to grow our bilateral relations.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and I will co-chair the fourth China-U.S. High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange in Washington, D.C. It aims to implement the important agreement President Xi Jinping and President Obama reached in June on building a new model of major-country relationships between China and the U.S.

The key to sound relations between countries lies in the amity between their peoples based on mutual understanding. Sincere people-to-people exchange can rise above differences in history, culture and social system to give a strong boost to relations between nations.

Forty-two years ago, it was "ping-pong diplomacy" that broke the ice on China-U.S. relations. Now, over 10,000 citizens of our two countries fly across the Pacific Ocean every day. It is hard to estimate the number of Chinese and American people who interact via the Internet and mobile phones. The affinity is growing between our two countries. More and more Americans are fascinated by the Chinese language, kung fu and the Chinese culture, while Hollywood movies, Disney and the NBA are increasingly popular in China.

The China-U.S. High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange set up in 2010 is an innovation in our friendly cooperation. Our people have been brought closer as a result of cooperation in six major areas, namely education, science and technology, culture, women, youth and sports.

People-to-people exchange has joined strategic cooperation and win-win business ties as the three pillars underpinning the China-U.S. relationship. With 235,000 Chinese students studying in America, China is now the largest source of international students in the U.S. The "100,000 Strong Initiative" has enabled 68,000 American students to study in China. "Youth and Innovation," the theme of this round of consultation, is one of great vision. Exchange between youth will sow the seed of friendship for China-U.S. relations in the future.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up. Reform has brought sea changes to China, but as a major developing country, China still has to make arduous efforts to achieve modernization for its 1.3 billion people. Several days ago, the Communist Party of China convened the Third Plenum of its 18th Central Committee, which has moved to deepen reform.

China will focus on economic reform and accelerate reform in all other areas, with a view to promoting social fairness and justice and enhancing people's well-being. This has created new opportunities for the growth of China-U.S. relations. Mutual respect and win-win cooperation between our great nations will not only benefit both peoples but also encourage world peace and development. I am convinced that with vigorous cooperation between governments and mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples, we will be able to build a new model of major-country relationships, inspiring generations to come.

Liu Yandong is vice premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.

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