During a charity event in November 2005 in Beijing, George H.W. Bush met with children recovering from cleft palate surgery. [Photo by Fan Jiwen/China Daily]
President Xi Jinping sent a message on Saturday to United States President Donald Trump upon the death of former US president George H.W. Bush.
On behalf of the Chinese government, the Chinese people and himself, Xi expressed heartfelt condolences and sympathy to all members of the Bush family.
Bush was an old friend of the Chinese people who had witnessed and promoted the historic development of China-US relations over a span of more than 40 years. He contributed to the friendship between the two peoples, which the Chinese people will not forget, Xi said in the message.
Xi emphasized that for a long time, through the efforts of the leaders of the two countries and their people, China-US relations have been advancing, bringing benefits to themselves and to people from other parts of the world.
China attaches great importance to China-US relations and is willing to work with Trump to promote the development of bilateral relations along the right track, Xi added.
Neil Bush, a son of the late president, told China Daily earlier that his father often said the US-China bilateral relationship was "the most important in the world".
"I respect Dad for having the perspective to share it openly and publicly," Neil Bush said.
Bush was elected as the 41st US president in 1988. He is best remembered in China for his time in Beijing as the chief of the US Liaison Office in China, the unofficial US ambassador to the country in the mid-1970s, before diplomatic relations were established in 1979.
In one of Bush's last visits to China, in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, he told reporters that "China is an important friend and supporter of the US".
Tao Wenzhao, a US studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Bush's passing was a big loss for people who believe in engagement and friendly Sino-US relations.
"Bush will be sorely missed as a leader whose vision and confidence in a strong US-China relationship helped keep our relations from going off the rails, especially during difficult, testy times," Tao said. "I really hope the US people and officials will ponder the legacy of Bush and learn from the lessons of our relations over the years."
Pang Zhongying, an international relations researcher at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao, Shandong province, also spoke highly of the former US leader, describing him as a key diplomatic figure in China-US relations.
"He left a lasting imprint on China-US ties with his tremendous success in forging closer relations from the early 1970s," Pang said.
Xinhua contributed to this story.