By Ashley Feng:
The first panel of this weekend’s U.S.-China Forum at Yale in Kroon Hall centered on conflicts between the U.S. and China this year and how they could be resolved–though the latter topic is a struggle, as both countries face a wide array of domestic and international challenges from tensions in the South China Sea to China’s leadership transition.
Professor Xi Chen, Assistant Professor in comparative politics at UNC at Chapel Hill, emphasized the often-overlooked role of China’s domestic public opinion in guiding and constraining its relations abroad. Despite censorship over official news outlets, China’s outward-looking and nationalistic citizenry holds increasing sway over public officials and must be considered in any interactions with China.
Mr. Fred S. Teng, CEO of NewsChina, considered the role of cultural and political misunderstandings in perpetuating conflicts over sovereignty and commerce between China and the U.S. He contrasted China’s focus on issues of sovereignty and security- including tensions over Taiwan, Tibet, and the South China Sea- against the U.S. focus on issues of commerce, such as currency valuation and trade. Mr. Teng urged a demilitarization of China-U.S. diplomacy, and called for a new generation of diplomats in the tradition of Burlingame and Kissinger to strengthen the world’s most important relationship.
Professor Daniel P. Ahn, Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs and former Director at Citadel Securities in NY, addressed energy security. He explained that in a world of closely interconnected energy markets–in which regional bottlenecks drive up oil prices worldwide–the U.S. and China must cooperate to ensure each other’s energy security; the U.S. by selling its surplus to China, and China by curbing fuel subsidies to reduce price distortion and overconsumption.
Professor Stephen Roach, Yale SOM and Jackson Institute professor and former Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, addressed the U.S.-China trade imbalance and the struggle between reform-oriented and conservative factions within China’s party leadership. He noted the role of global supply chains in making leaders in innovation laggards in job creation, with many U.S. jobs outsourced overseas likely gone for good. As a personal acquaintance of both Premier Wen Jiabao and Chongqing ex-Secretary Bo Xilai, he praised Wen’s support for market-based reform, particularly the Premier’s stance against Bo Xilai’s regressive growth model of monopolies for state-owned businesses and banks.
Despite the diverse professional backgrounds of the panelists and the wide array of issues addressed, a broad theme ultimately emerged: the huge gaps in understanding between two notoriously self-centered nations, which current and future leaders absolutely must bridge to ensure their nations’ security and prosperity.
Ashley Feng ’15 is in Calhoun College. Contact her at email@example.com.
To learn more about China from China’s perspective, visit http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/. To learn about China from the perspective of a Chinese fan of the Onion, visit http://chinadailyshow.com/.