By Wang Peng Source: CGTN Published: 2018-12-02
George Herbert Walker Bush, president of the United States from 1989 to 1993, father of President George W. Bush, World War II veteran, and former CIA director died Friday, his family has announced.
In China, President George H. W. Bush has been honored as an “old friend of the Chinese people,” an esteemed title awarded to foreign leaders. George H. W. Bush, in Chinese perspective, made huge “historic contributions” to the diplomatic ties between China and the U.S., and as a result earned respect from both the Chinese government and society.
George H. W. Bush's contributions to the Chinese people can be traced back to World War II, long before the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and the establishment of Sino-U.S. ties in 1979.
Following the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, Bush enlisted in the United States Navy on his 18th birthday, and became the youngest aviator in the U.S. Navy at the time. During the war, his performance was widely considered “legendary.”
According to media reports, he flew 58 combat missions throughout 1944, for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation. As Chinese military historians commented, soldiers and pilots like Bush made great contributions to the Chinese people's resistance against the Japanese invaders.
Bush played an important role in Sino-U.S. diplomatic ties as well. Two years after then U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's secret visit to China and the ice-breaking handshake between then Chinese leader Mao Zedong and then U.S. President Richard Milhous Nixon, Bush was appointed as 2nd Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to the People's Republic of China in 1974.
Although he only spent one year in China, his great contributions to maintaining and enhancing then nascent and fragile Sino-U.S. bilateral ties have been highly awarded by generations of Chinese leaders.
A famous photo of Bush and his wife Barbara riding bicycles was widely spread on China's Internet. It not only displays Bush's affinity and kindness to the Chinese people, but has also become an icon symbolizing the beginning of the golden age of the two countries.
Bush became the 41st president of the United States (January 20, 1989-January 20, 1993). During this era, China-U.S. relations suffered greatly from the huge impact of the dramatic changes in the international structure after the collapse of Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
The early 1990s is regarded as the “darkest hour” in the history of China-U.S. relations. The tougher the situation, the higher the level of political wisdom and strategic vision required.
In the darkest hour, Bush maintained a roughly correct and farsighted view about the future of China and Sino-U.S. relations. Considering anti-China sentiments in some Western countries, Bush's strategic determination and political intuition served as his valuable legacy for his successors.
China and the U.S. established diplomatic ties 39 years ago. Now the two giants are standing at the crossroads of their future relations. What Bush's successors can learn from his political wisdom and strategic foresight really matters to China and the U.S., as well as the world as a whole.
Wang Peng is an associate research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.