BENEFITING FROM BILATERAL RELATIONS
Chinese and American scholars gather in Shanghai to discuss China-US ties
Douglas Paal, Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
In 40 years of experience, there are lots of lessons to be drawn. One of the most important to me during my time working on US-China relations was that we have to expect cycles of excitement and maybe even illusions, which are often followed by cycles of disillusion. We’ve been through this a number of times. It started before the normalization of our relations.
China is the ascendant new great power, and how we, the United States as the statusquo power, deals with China is the most important challenge we face. We have to look back at our forbearers at how they saw big concepts and then subordinated our smaller disputes under these larger concepts. We have to be able to make room for each other in the Asian-Pacific region to begin with, and globally over time. The US and China have to accommodate each other’s interests. That’s mutual accommodation, not one-sided accommodation.
Zhou Wenzhong, former Vice Minister, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, former Chinese Ambassador to the US
Over the past 40 years of China-US relations, both countries see each other as a partner, which I think is very important and also the main reason why China and the US could march forward despite difficulties. However, the US administration today has a changing view of China, which is worrying. From late2017 till now, the US government has issued a series of reports regarding China as a strategic rival. President Trump even called China “a rival power” in a speech in December 2017. The change in the way the US sees China worries me a lot. There are many different voices in the US government right now, which is baffling to business people, academicians and other politicians. I hope the US government can resolve this issue and allow China-US relations to return to its normal track, and try to view China’s development from the right perspective.
Yu Hongjun, former Vice Minister, International Department, Central Committee of CPC
If we look back in the history of China-US relations, we see many ups and downs, but in general, we were moving forward. The normalization of diplomatic ties between China and the US changed the course of China-US relations, and the course of international relations. We might also say that it changed the course of human history. We have to be aware of the massive significance of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and US. Today we’re facing a turning point, which is a big test for both countries. If either country becomes irrational, a major conflict may occur. Therefore we must prevent things from worsening, try to minimize our disagreements, find more common ground and seek dialogue.
Sean Stein, Consul General, US Consulate General in Shanghai
Over the last 40 years, no city and no region has been more instrumental in building ties between our two countries – whether it’s the waves of Chinese students going to America or American businesses investing here or Chinese businesses investing in the US. Whether it’s trade or education or people or tourism, no place has been more important and central to the building of this relationship over the past 40 years in Shanghai and eastern China.
I’m optimistic. I can see examples of where continuing engagement is paying dividends in the area of trade, as many of the other speakers have also noticed. We recently had a highly successful meeting between President Trump and President Xi, and at that meeting the two sides agreed to engage in negotiations
to address concerns about technology transfer or intellectual property or non tariff barriers or cyber security. And in highlighting those con and cerns, the US president the vice president made clear that no one’s goal is to harm or constrain China’s economic development.
Ezra Vogel, Professor, Harvard University
Just after Nixon was elected in 1969, those
of us at Harvard University working on China decided there was a new opportunity to get relations with China and the United States off to a good start. Our perspective was that it was extremely unfortunate ever since 1949. Every time we thought there was a chance to open up relations between these two great countries, it did not work out. So the group of us at Harvard had meetings for several weeks, and were planning to write a letter to then President Nixon. We prepared a letter to send to Henry Kissinger, urging that they consider opening to the relationship. After that, Kissinger came to Harvard and we had a broad discussion on China, although he didn’t tell us at that time he was already planning to visit China. Then he invited some of us to the White House to continue the discussion. And of course, we were rapturous when the relationship began to develop.
David Lampton, Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
The essence of the tipping point, if you want to put it that way, is that the security relationship between the US and China is the most important. I think if the security relationship goes in a negative direction, economics can’t make up for that. And certainly culture and education cannot make up for it. So in a sense, I think the most important task in our relationship is to improve the security relationship.
Tao Wenzhao, Researcher, Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)
A lot of changes took place both in China and the United States. But one thing I think has not changed is bilateral relations, which are still very important to China’s modernization. The US is still the most important bilateral relationship for China. Of course, China benefited a lot from these bilateral relations, and the US also benefited a lot. And in the future, over the next forty years, if China wants to achieve “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” it still needs a basically healthy and stable bilateral relationship with the US.
From left: Wu Baiyi, director of Shanghai Institute of American Studies, CASS; Ezra Vogel, professor of Harvard University; David Lampton, professor of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; Tao Wenzhao, researcher of Shanghai Institute of American Studies, CASS