It was one year ago today that I began my service as US Ambassador to China. It is also the week before which our nation celebrates its birth. In my first year as US Ambassador to China I have gained a greater appreciation of two things: the symbolic power of American values and the practical value of relationships.
In the past year I have deepened my personal connections with Chinese leaders and the Chinese people through visits to 14 Chinese provinces. In Inner Mongolia, I toured one of the world's largest dairies and talked to locals about their traditional lifestyle in the Mongolian steppes. In Shanghai, I met with American students studying in China, making friends with Chinese students while preparing themselves for a successful career doing business between our two countries. In Yunnan, I visited a beautiful Catholic cathedral built over a hundred years ago. And here in Beijing I have shared countless plates of roast duck with Chinese counterparts as we discussed relations between the US and China. Many of these counterparts are well-known national leaders, including President Xi Jinping, whom I have known personally for over 30 years. Some of these counterparts are small shopkeepers or workers in China's factories. What I see in all of them is a desire to better their country, and an optimism that reminds me of the good people of America.
The good personal chemistry between President Donald Trump and President Xi is helping us work through the challenges that naturally arise in international relations. As I toured the Forbidden City with President Trump and President Xi last November, the quality of their personal relationship was palpable. This relationship has continued through regular phone calls and meetings.
These close relationships have paid great dividends. We have worked together to address North Korea's nuclear program and are in complete agreement on the importance of North Korean denuclearization, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting just a few weeks ago to discuss the progress made in Singapore. We have seen progress in our collaboration to reduce trafficking in illicit synthetic opioids. We also look forward to working together to improve economic relations between our countries.
The fact that - despite our differences - American and Chinese leaders continue to engage every day on these issues is a testament to the maturity of this bilateral relationship.
Next week is July 4, a day that marks the birth of America. America means different things to different people. For Americans it is our home. For Chinese visitors it can be a place of business, education, or adventure.
Living abroad this year has reminded me that America is also a symbol. A symbol of freedom and progress. In the very moment our nation was born, our founders wrote in our Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It is toward this ideal that we continue to strive at home and abroad.
The relationship between the US and China has had its ups and downs, and we will continue to confront challenges. But I am optimistic we will continue to work together for the good of both our peoples.