Voice of diplomacy
With 70 years’ experience in diplomacy, leader of US-China Policy Foundation tells in book what he’s learned, expects
In his new book, 70 Years of Witness in US-China Diplomacy, veteran diplomat Chi Wang talks about improving relations.
Chi Wang was born in wartime China and has experienced all the dramatic changes there and in the relationship between his native country and the US in the 20th century. Wang’s life and career have been intertwined with the ups and downs of bilateral relations.
In his soon to be published book, 70 Years of Witness and Memory: My Experience in US-China Diplomacy, Wang expresses the view that ChinaUS relations need to continuously improve.
Although formal relations between China and the US were re-established in 1972, Wang believes that disagreements have continued to cause occasional friction.
“Misunderstandings and misconceptions that stem from different historical, political and cultural backgrounds have been exacerbating these disputes,” Wang said.
In 1992, when Ambassadors John Holdridge, Arthur Hummel, Charles Freeman and Wang met at a conference at the Library of Congress, Holdridge asked: “Can we establish a non-profit organization close to Capitol Hill to study US-China relations and Chinese culture?”
This idea was applauded by the other men, all of whom are devoted to developing US-China relations.
The US-China Policy Foundation (USCPF), designed to ensure the continued improvement of US-China relations with a specific focus on the betterment of US-China policy, was founded in 1995 by Holdridge, Hummel, Freeman and Wang.
Two major sponsors have provided critical support.
One is the Freeman Foundation. Established in 1994 through the bequest and in memory of the businessman and benefactor Mansfield Freeman, a co-founder of the international insurance and financial conglomerate American International Group Inc (AIG), the Freeman Foundation is dedicated to augmenting international understanding between the United States and the nations of East Asia.
In 1995, when Houghton Freeman, the son of Mansfield Freeman, heard about the establishment of USCPF, he visited the newly established office in Washington immediately, Wang writes in his book.
“I’m very supportive of your work. I know you are not able to host events without sponsorship. I’ll mail you a check to show my support,” Houghton Freeman said.
A couple of weeks later, the USCPF received a $50,000 check from the Freeman Foundation.
Through the connection of Freeman, the Starr Foundation and its Chairman and CEO Maurice Greenberg also have provided generous support to the USCPF.
“It’s only with the generous support from people like Freeman and Greenberg, can we keep doing what we have committed to do,” Wang writes in his book.
The USCPF has been working closely with scholars, policymakers and the general public to achieve a deeper level of communication, understanding and friendship.
The USCPF has been dedicated to bringing US policymakers to visit China.
Wang realized how important it was for Congress to understand China during his tenure at the Library of Congress. He was the head of the Chinese Section at the library, where he had worked for 48 years before retiring in October 2004.
“The Chinese Section has served as an important bond between the Congress and China,” Wang said. “When they need to know certain aspects of China, no matter if it’s about politics, economics or science, they would come to me for information. A lot of them have become my friends.”
However, the Chinese Section was discontinued after he retired in 2004.
“The Congress needs all kinds of perspective, not just American perspective. Right now, the capital does not spend enough effort to understand China. That’s why our foundation wants to push forward the connections between the Congress and China,” Wang said.
Since 1995, the USCPF has brought about 600 congressional chiefs of staff and other senior staff members, from offices of Republicans and Democrats, to visit China, according to Wang.
The program aims to provide the participants with insight into the issues affecting modern Chinese and to serve as an introduction to China-US relations, especially those staff members who have never been to China.
The most recent delegation was composed of 11 congressional chiefs of staff, legislative directors and senior staff. Six of the participants work for senators and five work for US representatives.
They visited Beijing, Shenyang, Dandong and Harbin from Aug 22 to Sept 1.
“They were very interested to know more about the northeastern part of China,” Wang said.
Wang believes more interactions between the policymakers from the two countries would benefit both sides profoundly.
“I hope when the Chinese officials visit the US, they are more active to meet and talk to members of the Congress, not just officially; a private meeting would work better sometimes,” Wang said. “This would greatly enhance the understanding between the two countries and would benefit both sides.”
The USCPF also produces “China Forum”, an educational TV show on MHz Worldview on Sunday mornings. Each program discusses contemporary issues relating to China, featuring a diverse panel of experts.
Instead of advocating any specific policies toward China, the program aims to advance American understanding and awareness of the increasingly nuanced relationship.
The upcoming 21st anniversary of the USCPF has led Wang to think about new issues, such as how to open a new chapter for the foundation.
Wang said his life has always been profoundly influenced by the relations between China and the US.
When he came from China to the US in 1949, he pursued undergraduate studies in agricultural science at the University of Maryland because his father, Wang Shu-chang, who was governor of China’s Hebei province and a roommate of Chiang Kai-shek while studying in cadet school in Japan, suggested that agriculture is very important to China, and he should bring back the advanced agricultural science and technologies to develop China’s agriculture.
However, soon after Wang arrived in the US, the People’s Republic of China was founded and Wang was not able to go back to his home country until 1972.
“Now there are about 300,000 Chinese students studying in the US,” Wang said. “However, there were only about 2,000 when I first visited. Though that was quite a small group, every one of us believes we carried a mission for our home country, China.”
Wang is hopeful about the future.
“I hope the next generation of the leadership of the foundation should be able to shoulder the responsibilities to promote China-US relations,” Wang said. “I hope the Chinese government will provide more support to us. Moral support is important to us,” Wang said.
“I do hope the Chinese enterprises will provide more support to us. As a non-profit, we really don’t need much. But the support from Chinese enterprise can show a responsibility and involvement.
“We are going to launch a survey of the Congress next year after the new members are sworn in. The survey will investigate how they think about China-US relations,” Wang said. “I hope there are more channels for both sides to communicate. [The foundation] being one of the most important ones in the past 21 years, I hope we can do more in the future.”
Misunderstandings and misconceptions that stem from different historical, political and cultural backgrounds have been exacerbating these disputes.”
Chi Wang, president and chairman of the US-China Policy Foundation
Chi Wang, president and chairman of the US-China Policy Foundation, holding his new book, 70YearsofWitnessandMemory:My ExperienceinUS-ChinaDiplomacy, at his home in Virginia on Sept 28.