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Toast at the State Dinner for President Li Xiannian of China

July 23, 1985

Good evening, and welcome to the White House. Tonight it's my pleasure to return the hospitality that was extended to us by President Li during our visit to China. And I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with him. And it's my honor, President Li, to greet you affectionately as lao pengyou. Now, for most of you who don't speak Chinese, that means "old friend." [Laughter]

Today when President Li and I renewed our friendship, he expressed his wishes for my full recovery. In fact, he told me that once I was totally back on my feet, a young man like myself could expect to have a long and distinguished career ahead of him. [Laughter] President Li comes from a nation whose people are known for their traditional respect for the elders. President Li, I can assure you I'm doing my best to reestablish that tradition in our own country. [Laughter]

But I learned about that and many other wonderful aspects of China during our visit last year. Although our stay was brief, I did, as the Chinese say, "look at the flowers while riding horseback"—capturing lasting impressions not only of the magnificence of the culture and the land but also the bold vision of those directing China's future.

The progress we've made is a tribute to individuals with courage and foresight, like President Li, on both sides of the Pacific. The relationship we've built improves the material well-being and increases the security of our countries. Areas of disagreement exist; these should not be ignored, nor should they be permitted to inhibit us from acting together in these many areas of commonality. Historic truths determine our fundamental national interests, and they continue to draw our two peoples together.

After our meeting today, I'm happy to say I remain confident that Chinese-American cooperation will grow and strengthen in the years ahead. Underscoring the momentum of our relationship, I am delighted tonight to announce that the Chinese Government has invited Vice President Bush to China and that he has accepted this most gracious invitation. Such visits as yours, Mr. President, elevate the relationship of the leaders of our two nations, enhance our joint efforts, and open new doors of cooperation.

President Li, by the time you return home you will have seen much of the United States and met many Americans in and out of government. You will have seen our industry, our people, and our land. We Americans came here from almost every nation, including China, to an undeveloped land, a wilderness. We're proud of what we've accomplished. And today we're proud to stand beside the people of China, who are striving to build a better life.

By working together, we can and will create a more prosperous and peaceful world. So, let us drink a toast to that and to President Li and Madame Lin, his wife.

Note: The President spoke at 9:25 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Toast at the State Dinner for President Li Xiannian of China Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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