JIMMY Carter and Rosalynne, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brezinski, Brent Scowcroft and many other “old China hands” from Washington were in Beijing earlier this week to attend a conference to mark the 30th anniversary of the normalisation of relations between China and the United States on January 1 1979. It was President Carter who took the decisive step to recognise mainland China, rather than Taiwan, as the legitimate representative of the Chinese nation, although Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon had taken important initiatives towards that decision by their visits to China in the early 1970s. It is often forgotten today that from the time of the founding of the United Nations in 1947 until 1979, the island of Taiwan occupied China's seat in the Security Council of the UN and used its veto according to America's wishes. That unwarranted anomaly was an irritant to China throughout those thirty years but if there still feelings of resentment they are seldom shown. Taiwan and Tibet are issues on which agreement is difficult but they are manageable between two countries which share almost $400 billion in trade annually. Jimmy Carter summed up the mood of the celebrations in Beijing: “There is no more important diplomatic relationship in the world than the one that has grown between the People's Republic of China and the United States.” It was the diplomatic thing to say - but it also happens to be true.


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