WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The relationship between the United States and China is like a marriage, with both parties building trust and cooperation, a visiting Chinese official said on Wednesday.
However, it is not like a gay marriage, Vice Premier Wang Yang quipped as he sat next to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
Both officials came to their positions this year and are co-chairing the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, a yearly meeting between the world’s two biggest economies.
“In China when we say a pair of new people, we mean a newlywed couple,” Wang said about himself and Lew. “Although U.S. law does permit marriage between two men, I don’t think this is what Jacob or I actually want.”
Wang went on to describe how the United States and China must cooperate and build trust like a married couple, and respect each other’s right to speak.
“(But) we cannot have a divorce the way Wendi and Rupert Murdoch just had,” Wang said, referring to the high-profile divorce between News Corp chief executive and billionaire Murdoch and his Chinese-born wife of 14 years, Wendi Deng.
“For that, it would be too big a price to pay.”
Lew briefly smiled down at his notes after Wang’s comments, but many members of the Chinese delegation squirmed.
Wang, one of China’s best-known reformers, became one of four vice premiers in March after serving as the Communist Party chief in Guangdong, one of China’s richest and most liberal provinces.
But Wang does not have as much foreign and diplomatic experience as his colleague in the Chinese delegation, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, who kept his remarks much more serious during the opening session earlier on Wednesday.
Wang said he was last in the United States 10 years ago and wasn’t sure how much had changed.
“Well, in the past two days, I can see that the Americans are still taller than the Chinese and still have a stronger body and longer nose than the Chinese. (So) nothing much has changed, so I feel more confident of my visit this time.”
A senior U.S. administration official said Wang was impressive, amusing with an easygoing manner. “Sometimes humour doesn’t translate into a foreign language, but I thought he showed a good sense of humour,” the official said.
(This story was corrected to change “stood” to “sat” in paragraph 2)
Reporting by Anna Yukhananov and Paul Eckert; Editing by Doina Chiacu