Voice of diplo­macy

With 70 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in diplo­macy, leader of US-China Pol­icy Foun­da­tion tells in book what he’s learned, ex­pects

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By DONG LESHUO in Wash­ing­ton leshuodong@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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.

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