How to Sustain a Peaceful & Constructive US-China Relationship
CALL FOR PAPERS From Young American Scholars
The Fifth Young Scholars Forum on US-China Relations
Organized by The Carter Center, Peking University, the Global Times &
China Public Diplomacy Association
April 24-26, 2020
In 2020, the Fifth Young Scholars Forum on US-China Relations will take place on April 24-26 in Beijing. The organizers invite young American scholars under the age of 45 to present multidisciplinary findings on various aspects of the most critical bilateral relationship in the world and their recommendations on how to make this relationship peaceful and constructive.
There has been deterioration of U.S.-China relations between the years when President Obama was about to leave the White House and when Xi Jinping just assumed the leadership position in China. But no one has expected the bilateral relationship to have such a nose-dive since Donald J. Trump became the president. At the current time, not only the trade war is still raging almost two years after Washington and Beijing have entered negotiation between the U.S. and China has for the first time become entirely possible. The stability and constructiveness of the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China have been anchors for peace and prosperity for the Asia-Pacific region in the past 40 years. With the possible collapse of this relationship, the long-lasting engine for global growth and development is now threatened.
What has gone wrong with this relationship? What are the factors that have caused this sharp decline in mutual strategic trust? Are the differences in ideology and political system the ultimate culprit of the relational deterioration? With the relationship as we have known in the past 40 years evaporating in front of eyes on daily basis, what will be the new framework to manage this huge business of growing the global economy, slowing down climate change and preventing conflict between the two nations?
We invite US doctoral candidates, postdoctoral fellows, assistant and associate professors, think tank analysts, researchers and young professionals outside of academia under the age of 45 to send in proposals that can contribute to answering these questions. Schwartzman Scholars from the U.S. are also eligible to present their papers.
Proposals in English (no more than 300 words) with concise biographical information must be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com before February 15, 2020. Selection of participants to the forum will be announced on March 1, 2020.
The deadline for finalists to submit papers is April 10, 2020.
The conference organizers will cover the international airfare (economy class) and local expenses for all the paper presenting scholars from the U.S..
BACKGROUND OF THE FORUM
In September 2014, the first Forum for Young Chinese and American Scholars, which was jointly organized by The Carter Center and the Global Times, convened successfully at the Xi’an Jiaotong University. President Jimmy Carter attended the Forum and provided opening remarks. More than 20 young scholars from both countries presented their research on the theme “How to Build Future U.S.-China Relations in the Context of Turbulent International Relations”. Senior American and Chinese scholars, including Professor David Shambaugh, General Qiao Liang, commented on the presentations and offered suggestions for revision of the papers.
The second forum took place at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia in October 2015. Scholars from both countries shared their research on the topic “How Will the Future International Order Be Shaped by Past and Current U.S.-China interactions?” Participating senior scholars also held a lively dialogue with Professor Lyle Goldstein, author of Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry.
In September 2016, Nanjing University hosted the third forum. Scholars from both countries presented their findings on the topic of “The Impact of US-China Educational Exchanges on U.S.-China Relations”. Professors Yan Xuetong, David Arase and Shen Dingli as well as veteran US-China education exchange leader and author Terry Lautz attended the forum.
In January 2018, the fourth forum was held at The Carter Center and Emory University in Atlanta. This forum focused on the role of nationalism, national identify and media in US-China relations. Professors Zhu Feng, John Garver, Wei Zongyou as well as opinion leaders Hu Xijin, Robert Daly, David Firestein and Ding Gang participated in the forum as keynote speakers and discussants.
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
No one thought Donald Trump could win the Presidency in 2016. One of Trump’s favorite talking points during the race was that if elected, he would give China hell through imposing hefty tariffs on Chinese imports. He won the election and kept his campaign promise. The subsequent trade conflict has brought the US-China relationship to its lowest point since January 1, 1979, when Washington and Beijing normalized their bilateral relationship.
The 2020 presidential race is already under way. Like the 2016 race for the Republican Party nomination, the Democratic Party primary has a plethora of candidates. At this point, it is unclear who will emerge as the Party’s candidate. There are many issues that will define the race and decide who will be the final candidate. These issues include healthcare, immigration, gun control, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the American relationship with China.
The candidates agree on several points regarding the US relationship with China. For example, they all agree that President Trump has mishandled the trade dispute, that the US needs to pressure China more on human rights, and that President Trump has not used the power of the US’ alliances to exert unified pressure on China. Despite their agreement on these issues, each candidate would approach China differently if elected.
To provide our readers with a full understanding of the Democratic candidates’ proposed China policies, USCNPM.org is compiling a profile for each major candidate. We will follow these standards when working on the profile:
First, we will not produce profiles for each of the more than 20 candidates. At this point, we will only profile the proposed China policies of the 10 candidates who spoke at the third debate. If other candidates break out, we will profile their policies accordingly.
Second, we will source information for each candidate from their responses during the Democratic debates, from the policy proposals available on each candidate’s website, and from media coverage of each candidate’s comments on China.
Third, as the race evolves later this year and next year, we will update each candidate’s profile until a final candidate is chosen.
Fourth, once a candidate is nominated, we will try to identify members of the nominee’s Asia team.
Click the links below to read each candidate’s China policy profile:
Vice President Joe Biden: https://www.uscnpm.org/china-policy-profiles-vice-president-joe-biden/
Senator Elizabeth Warren: https://www.uscnpm.org/china-policy-profiles-senator-elizabeth-warren/
Senator Bernie Sanders: https://uscnpm.org/2019/10/23/bernie-sanders/
Mayor Pete Buttigieg: https://www.uscnpm.org/china-policy-profiles-mayor-pete-buttigieg/
Senator Kamala Harris: https://www.uscnpm.org/china-policy-profiles-senator-kamala-harris/ Senator Harris dropped out of the race on 12/03/19
Representative Beto O’Rourke: https://www.uscnpm.org/china-policy-profiles-representative-beto-orourke/
Andrew Yang: https://www.uscnpm.org/policy-profiles-andrew-yang/
Senator Cory Booker: https://www.uscnpm.org/china-policy-profiles-cory-booker/
Senator Amy Klobuchar: https://www.uscnpm.org/china-policy-profiles-senator-amy-klobuchar/
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro: https://uscnpm.org/2019/10/23/china-policy-profiles-housing-and-urban-development-secretary-julian-castro/
Each policy profile has been researched and written by the interns of The Carter Center’s China Program. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of The Carter Center.
The Shanghai Institutes for International Studies have published a report on the potential of people-to-people diplomacy as a result of the Coronavirus Crisis. Read it below or at http://www.siis.org.cn/Content/Info/4UA9LS9STN2OSIIS-Report-V-Working-Together-with-One-Heart-People-to-People-Diplomacy-in-the-Coronavirus-Crisis-1
She was used to the mistreatment by now: the passing stares, the not-so-subtle attempts to cover their mouths while passing her. Amy, aware of the recent uptick in targeted harassment against herself and other Asian Americans, found this behavior “upsetting” and “wrong,” but nonetheless strived not to let it get to her.
So she put on a brave face while she casually scanned the aisles at the grocery store. It had been several weeks since the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, and Amy had gone to stock up on supplies she would need for the seemingly inevitable shelter-in-place orders.
She casually observed the xenophobic behavior by those around her. “People were taking note of the fact that I was there,” she told me. “Usually, at the grocery store, people just mind their own business.” Now, people were staring – and they were doing it more than usual.
While waiting in line to check out, she felt a sharp, violent jolt strike her lower back. She stumbled, caught her balance, and turned around. There stood a glaring older woman whose white-knuckled fists showed nearly as much anger as her eyes. Amy expected an apology, but it never came.
“I thought it might have been harmless at first,” she told me. “But the woman never apologized, and so I knew it was on purpose.”
Amy is not alone. Thousands of other Asian Americans have been targeted since the spread of COVID-19 by people who blame them for the crisis. A report from San Francisco State University found that news reports of targeted, anti-Asian harassment rose 50% between February 9th and March 7th.
I interviewed several Asian Americans who have suffered ethnically-motivated harassment since the outbreak of COVID-19, each of whom had their own stomach-churning examples. Michelle told me that a group of strangers coughed on her and mocked her friend for wearing a surgical mask. “That won’t protect you,” they taunted. Vivian recalled at least five separate people who blamed her for the disease, one of whom hissed in her ear that “people are dying because of your culture.” She tries to remain stoic, she said, but “it still really hurts” her when people treat her like this.
“I wouldn’t say I’m shocked by all this,” Michelle told me. “But it’s gotten worse in the past few weeks.”
She feels the situation is made worse when US lawmakers, particularly the president, use terms like “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus,” or perhaps worst of all, “Kung Flu.” In light of the broader cultural context – the recent bouts of housing discrimination, harassment, even violence, many view these remarks as offensive and racist.
“President Trump can’t speak from an Asian American perspective,” Michelle said. “It’s ignorant and actively hurts his own citizens. It emboldens the racists.”
Michelle is right. The CDC has warned against labeling the disease in this way, citing concerns that doing so causes anti-Chinese stigma which “affects the emotional or mental health of stigmatized groups and the communities they live in.” And each one of the individuals I interviewed conveyed that those who use this language make them feel unsafe.
Yet President Trump, when asked about whether these terms endanger Asian Americans, remained steadfast: “No, not at all,” he said. “I think they would agree with it 100 percent. It comes from China.”
Not one of the interview subjects agreed.
COVID-19 is undoubtedly an “unprecedented crisis,” a “once-in-a-century pandemic,” a virus which is “unlike anything in our lifetime.” Indeed, when Chinese health officials first contacted the World Health Organization (WHO) about a handful of patients suffering from a “mysterious pneumonia,” few could have predicted the speed with which a curious viral infection would become a global pandemic.
And now, grappling with the potentially crippling political impact of the virus’ spread, President Trump has resorted to using racially-charged language as a means of shifting the blame to Chinese Americans rather than his own administration. One needs no further evidence of this than Trump’s own writing: a photograph from an earlier press briefing shows that, on his notes, the president crossed out “Corona” and replaced it with “Chinese” virus. He later bragged about injecting the venomous phrase into the zeitgeist: “I know the truth,” he said. “I think I came up with the term, I hope I came up with the term.”
Michelle, like all of the other interview subjects, views this intentionality as an attempt to scapegoat the Chinese as responsible for the spread of COVID-19: “He’s deflecting. There’s a difference between the Chinese government and Chinese people, and he’s trying to pin the blame on us instead of himself.”
Others on the international stage seem to agree. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang cited Trump’s language when justifying his decision to expel 13 US journalists from China, citing the president’s “ideological prejudice” and “cold war mentality.” While many rightly criticized Beijing for taking such drastic measures against the US during a global crisis, one cannot help but notice how simple language choices can affect the relationship between the two countries.
There is no denying the pain that this harmful rhetoric has inflicted on Asian Americans. But evidently, the choice to refer to COVID-19 as anything but its proper name has substantial diplomatic impacts as well.
While President Trump recently promised to stop using the term, he expressed in a Fox News interview that he does not regret having said it. And, as many critics have pointed out, it may be too late. President Trump used his inflammatory rhetoric and, unsurprisingly, sympathetic media figures justified his decision for far too long. If calling COVID-19 “Kung flu” emboldened people with xenophobic attitudes, who is to say that, without a formal apology from the president, they have any reason to reign in their prejudice?
Words matter. And in this time of crisis, it is simply unacceptable for the President of the United States to use such irresponsible language, casting blame on one group for causing a global crisis, one for which we all bear some culpability. The risks to stigmatized groups and international relations are too high for us to be so reckless with our terminology.
Now is not the time to be cavalier with our choices. We cannot afford unforced errors. Be mindful of your language, both during the crisis and thereafter.
Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch was the first US ambassador of Asian descent. As the Founding President of the US-China Education Trust, she promotes US-China relations through education and exchange between Chinese and American students, scholars, and policy experts. In this interview, Ambassador Bloch discusses the great challenges and opportunities found in the field of educational exchange, along with her advice on righting the course of US-China relations and reflections on her own upbringing.
Zhang Juan: In a recent speech that you delivered to the American Chamber of Commerce in China, you said that you regard educational and cultural exchange as the last pillar in US-China relations and that this last pillar is “nearing the cracking point.” Could you elaborate on the full picture of the current state of educational exchange between the two countries?
Julia Bloch: Let me begin by saying that there are, as you know, three key pillars in US foreign policy: political and military, economic and trade, and the third, what I call the last pillar, would be people-to-people educational and cultural exchange.
Traditionally, the third or last pillar has been insulated from political and economic disputes between governments. Educational and cultural relations have been seen as a cornerstone of mutual understanding, and an important bedrock for policies dedicated to the peaceful settlement of differences. So, it’s related but also separate from politics and economics.
Throughout the ups and downs in US-China relations, both countries have shared a sense that the benefits brought by hundreds of thousands of students flowing across the Pacific were simply too great to jeopardize, and so there was insulation. Chinese students, in fact all international students, have been welcome in the United States.
The Trump White House, however, considered banning all Chinese nationals from studying in the US as part of a national security strategy to curtail Chinese intellectual property theft and espionage; it’s part of the trade war. Now, this is a radical departure from US foreign policy on international education. Even during the height of the Cold War, the United States did not ban international students from the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe. While the idea was dropped, it indicates the simple reality that educational exchange now is so embedded in national security concerns that we have to rethink how we approach it.
Zhang Juan: In that speech, you urged the Chamber to support educational exchange as a way to stabilize the relationship. How do you make the connection that protecting and strengthening educational exchange is in the interest of the business world?
Julia Bloch: The numbers speak for themselves; as you know, education is big business. We have over 360,000 Chinese students enrolled in US universities and they bring with them an estimated $15 billion annually in living expenses and related jobs. If you’re part of the business world you absolutely cannot ignore something of that scale, and the Chamber understands that. I might personally choose to emphasize the importance of educational exchange as a pillar supporting the US-China relationship but there’s a very strong case that it’s good for business too.
Zhang Juan: If the number of Chinese students who come to the United States for school keeps declining, what would be the impact to the US?
Julia Bloch: Not only would there be a significant economic impact in terms of the money involved as we just mentioned, but there are potential losses that are impossible to measure which may be even more important. Educational and cultural exchange creates personal relationships which bolster US-China ties, even in the worst of times. When governments are fighting each other, when top-level communication has stalled, something or someone has to keep the dialogue flowing. In my experience, I see education and exchange filling that vacuum.
Zhang Juan: Some Americans emphasize the nature of competitiveness in US-China relations and argue that the US should be careful of training Chinese students. What would you say to these people?
Julia Bloch: America did not become great by being averse to competition. The competitive spirit drives America. What are our anti-trust laws for but to encourage competition? Competition can boost excellence, inspiring men and women to put out their best. Just look how crazy Americans are about sports. You cannot win by avoiding competition.
America also does not have a monopoly on education and training. The UK, Canada and Australia, to name a few countries, are great competitors. The current atmosphere where Chinese students feel increasingly unwelcome in America has created a decline in the growth in Chinese students coming to the US, to the benefit of countries only too happy to take up the slack.
There’s also, I think, a flip side to your question, which is that American competitiveness may very well depend on maintaining our inflow of Chinese students. The United States has the world’s leading higher education system today partly due to the talent we attract from not only China, but also from the rest of the world. So, to answer your question in short, should the United States be careful of training Chinese students? I think we would be shortsighted not to train them.
Zhang Juan: Are you confident that educational exchange can salvage the US-China relations, at least to some extent? To achieve this goal, what would be your advice on this topic to the US government and the Chinese government?
Julia Bloch: Well I believe, and have said for a long time, that the US-China relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world today. I think the world has no future if the United States and China cannot find the means to coexist.
But there is no turning back the clock; the relationship has evolved, and attitudes have changed. Certainly, in the US, there will not be a return to the engagement policy that sustained US-China relations since Nixon. This country is polarized, but there is bipartisan consensus that China has not lived up to its promises. The Chinese, at the same time, have hardened their views that the US is out to contain their rise.
What we can do though is to try to stabilize relations and prevent them from further sliding into the abyss, and work to rebuild trust. It’s a long-term project, a gradual process, and it’s dependent on building personal relationships between Chinese and Americans today. And this is where education and exchange are important. Both exchange and interaction are great tools to clear up misunderstandings and lend some measure of grounding to release or reduce animosity and tensions. And that’s why I call it the last pillar supporting US-China relations today. We need a moderating undercurrent that can hold fast when everything else fails.
I would also emphasize that governments cannot do it all. Of course, I encourage policymakers to take note. I don’t think they recognize sufficiently the immense economic and human significance of student exchanges between the two countries. At its root though, people-to-people exchange is not really led by governments; it’s led by civil society.
The reason this last pillar has held out so long and has been so insulated is that it’s not directed by decisions solely made in Washington and Beijing. It’s directed by thousands of engaged academics, students, NGOs and everyday citizens. That is why when government-to-government relations fracture, people-to-people relations endure.
Zhang Juan: You had a very successful career in both the US government and the private sector. What made you decide to turn to China as the next chapter of your career?
Julia Bloch: I was born in China, and I come from a family where my father was the first Chinese graduate from Harvard Law School. He used that education to make critical reforms in China, ultimately regaining the country’s tariff autonomy. So, China has been a part of me, and yet in all my professional life I was not able to work on China because the United States and China did not have diplomatic relations until Nixon visited in 1971.
I felt that when I retired, and US-China relations had been restored, that it was time for me to do something – to make a contribution. I recognized that as a Chinese American, I could serve as a bridge between the two countries, and that is what I try to do with the US-China Education Trust (USCET). I believe that as Chinese Americans, we have a better understanding of both cultures. Because of the ups and downs in US-China relations, the talents of Chinese Americans are needed; it is important to the relationship. That’s why I created USCET in the sunset years of my career – to give back to a country that has been good to me and my family.
Zhang Juan: You founded the US-China Education Trust in 1998, with a mission to promote US-China relations through education and exchange for the next generation of leaders. Looking back, which program makes you especially proud? What is the most daunting challenge that you face when working with USCET?
Julia Bloch: More than any specific project, I am most proud of USCET’s resilience and power. Over the past twenty years we’ve seen dramatic ups and downs in US-China relations. We’re in the midst of one today. Through all of that, USCET has been able to sustain our progress in China.
We have an incredibly strong network of partners stretching from academia and beyond; the bonds of trust we’ve built have, I think, been important. I’m truly proud of USCET’s ability to weather storms – whether that means navigating tighter foreign NGO laws in China, or just maintaining a great network of partnerships at a time when there is so much pressure to disengage. This really touches on both halves of your question. It’s been a daunting challenge, and I’m encouraged with USCET’s resilience in facing it.
Zhang Juan: Throughout the years that you’ve worked with Chinese college students, have you noticed any significant change in those young students in terms of personality and knowledge?
Julia Bloch: I think Chinese students today are so much more self-confident, and I think they are also much prouder of China – of course China has developed a great deal since when I started USCET in the late 90s. They’re right to be proud, but I’m concerned that this pride might turn into nationalism. So, to your question, Chinese students are much better prepared to face the challenges of the world. I have to say, and I’ve said it before, my best students have been the undergrad students from Peking University, no question about that. They are continually growing, that’s change.
Zhang Juan: What would be your messages to those students who have plans to study in the US or those who are already in the US?
Julia Bloch: There are 360,000 Chinese students in the United States and my message to them would be that I hope they make the most of their time in the US, and that doesn’t mean just going to class. It means giving your best shot at building friendships with students from all over the world and taking in cultural experiences you can only find here in the United States, whether that’s a trip to a museum or visiting a national park, joining a local student organization or serving as a volunteer in some service or charity. What matters is that you find ways to explore your passion, to fulfill your potential. America, I think, has something to offer everyone and I would hope that Chinese students in America have the chance to find that potential, that something that will fulfill their lives.
But I also want to add something more personal. I am dedicated to education and exchange because it’s in the family. My father, as I mentioned, went to Harvard, but I didn’t mention that he went to Harvard on a Boxer Indemnity Scholarship. He was in the second group to leave Tsinghua for America, both to get a BA and to go to Law School for an LLM (1911-1917). That generation, and subsequent generations of Boxer Indemnity scholars and their families and descendants are spread around the world – I know some of them who now live in the United States. The Scholarship – probably the most successful educational exchange program between the US and China – has sustained friendship and good will throughout the years. That is the power and value of education and cultural exchange.
Amid the outbreak of Convid-19, the US-China Perception Monitor has conducted a series of interviews on this topic. We will discuss with experts on China’s handling on this crisis, the implications to the US-China relations and its global strategy. The following interview is with Ambassador Chas Freeman, a distinguished China expert and former career diplomat.
Ambassador Chas Freeman (Chinese: 傅立民) is a life-long career American diplomat, author, and writer. Ambassador Freeman worked as the main interpreter for President Nixon during his 1972 China visit and served as the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992, where he dealt with the Persian Gulf War. In this interview, Ambassador Freeman talked about the ongoing coronavirus and its impact on China’s international strategy and US-China relations.
China’s president Xi visited Wuhan, the city in the center of coronavirus epidemic. It is a possible sign that Beijing considers the worst of the outbreak to be over. How do you comment on China’s handling on this crisis from the beginning to this date?
Freeman: The initial response of Wuhan officials to the discovery of the virus was irresponsible. This got China off to a slow start in dealing with the epidemic but it has more than made up for that with the intensity of its subsequent actions. Xi Jinping’s visit to Wuhan marks a welcome milestone in China’s efforts to control the transmission of the virus and to gain time to produce an effective treatment for it.
How will coronavirus affect China’s global strategy?
Freeman: The novel coronavirus should be taken by both China and the United States as well as other countries as proof of the necessity of greater international cooperation on issues affecting all of humankind. The role of the World Health Organization underscores the importance of multilateral organizations in dealing with such challenges. These are lessons that the world should take to heart as it faces the perils inherent in human-induced climate change, nuclear proliferation, and other menaces.
Some officials in the Trump administration like Peter Navarro see coronavirus as an opportunity to further their decoupling mission and move supply chains out of China. But there are also experts calling for more broad international cooperation in light of fighting a disease like coronavirus. What is your view on this?
Freeman: The severance of cooperation between the United States and China is a tragedy for both societies. It will depress economic growth and retard technological advance in both countries. Mr. Navarro has an alarming record of being wrong about many things. In my view, his approach to the management of U.S. relations with China is entirely counterproductive. What will he say if, as may well be the case, a company in China is the first to develop a vaccine for the new virus and exploits its intellectual property rights to maximize profits by charging what the international market will bear? The Sino-American trade war Mr. Navarro played such a role in launching has indeed disrupted supply chains to the disadvantage of economies everywhere. Its legacy will be the diversification of such supply chains to multiple points, adding complexity, introducing inefficiency, and raising costs for both producers and consumers worldwide.
Interview By Juan Zhang
Amid the outbreak of Convid-19, the US-China Perception Monitor has conducted a series of interviews on this topic. We will discuss with experts on China’s handling on this crisis, the implications to the US-China relations and its global strategy. The following interview is with Professor Thomas Fingar, a distinguished scholar at Stanford University and a former government official.
Thomas Fingar is a Shorenstein APARC Fellow in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. Fingar left Stanford to join the State Department in 1986. He served as the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council until December 2008.
How do you comment on China’s handling on this crisis from the beginning to this date?
Fingar: China’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has been uneven. Beijing’s actions and dissemination of information have been better than was the case with SARS, but that is a low bar. To this outsider, it appears that medical professionals in Wuhan had difficulty persuading officials in the city/province of Hubei that the new virus could be a serious problem, that local officials were both slow and ineffective in communicating “bad news” to Beijing, and that officials in Beijing were slow in taking the problem to top leaders. The response also revealed deficiencies in epidemiological reporting practices and mechanisms and patterns suggesting problems of both accuracy and transparency. In my view, Beijing should have involved international health professionals and organizations more quickly than it did. That said, I have no doubt that officials and medical personnel at all levels did all that they thought possible to limit the spread of the disease and provide assistance to those infected. I am not qualified to judge the utility of specific steps like the lock-down of Wuhan or closing of factories in Beijing, but I am sure that officials thought they were doing the best thing to protect public health.
What impact does the coronavirus have on the US-China relations? Is it yet another problem or an opportunity?
Fingar: I do not think the virus and the way it has been handled will have an adverse effect on US-China relations but there have been lost opportunities. Washington should have offered more assistance immediately, Beijing should have accepted at least some of what was offered, and joint research teams (including people from other nations as well) should have been established and put to work immediately to tackle the hard problems associated with the disease.
There are discussions on whether China will become less ambitious on the global stage because of the virus. What is your take on this?
Fingar: I doubt that the virus will have a direct or immediate impact on China’s global ambitions and actions but it is likely to force Beijing to devote more attention and resources to the public health system because the people will expect and demand that. Doing so will limit what can be done to address other pressing and difficult policy challenges.
As a global community, if we learn something from this crisis, what would your lesson be?
Fingar: The crisis is a reminder that we are all citizens of the same world and that our fates are inextricably interconnected. That reality should persuade us to transcend parochial and nationalistic thinking more often than it does.
Interview by Juan Zhang
David Mike Lampton on COVID-19: ‘Decoupling’ or ‘Self-reliance’ in U.S.-China Relations Are Dangerous Delusions
David Mike Lampton is an Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow and Research Scholar at Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific Research Center. He was the former president of the National Committee on US-China Relations, and former director of China Studies at Johns Hopkins—SAIS.
Background from Professor David Mike Lampton:
Dr. Lampton: One of the most jarring and damaging aspects of the current U.S.-China discord and insufficient cooperation over the COVID-19 virus pandemic has been its racist and hyper-nationalistic overtones in both countries. These developments ignore the long history of critical and productive U.S.-China medical cooperation dating back to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
In June 1979, I was part of the US Government delegation that went to China to sign the United States and China “Protocol for Cooperation in Science and Technology of Medicine and Public Health.” During the internal Washington deliberations preceding that trip, the draft Protocol had to be cleared by the National Security Council. President Carter and his Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Joseph Califano, correctly viewed Sino-American medical and public health cooperation as a national security issue and the keystone of growing U.S.-China cooperation. These views were shared by senior leader Deng Xiaoping and by China’s Minister of Public Health, Qian Xinzhong, an admirable official who had been tortured during the Cultural Revolution for his belief in scientifically grounded medicine and public health.
Subsequently, in 2005, Washington and Beijing inaugurated a Collaborative Program on Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases and thereafter a CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) China Center was established. In 2009, the H1N1 Swine flu erupted with its epicenter in the United States and Mexico. Sino-American cooperation on this outbreak “proved useful when a new strain of avian flu, H7N9, emerged in China in March 2013,” a virus strain that had a 30 percent mortality rate, according to a Georgetown University report. China helped dramatically reduce the virus’ spread and shared its vaccine with the world. In short, the United States and China have had a long and mutually (indeed globally) beneficial history of cooperating on medicine and public health in the post-1979 period—indeed long before that.
Now, the barbarians are, once again, at the gates of medical science and public health cooperation in both countries, while storming the gates of the U.S.-China relationship more broadly. These forces in both societies express mutual hostility that ignores all the positive and strategically significant cooperation since the late-1970s. Today, cooperation on the COVID-19 pandemic is being hampered by hyper-nationalists in both countries feeding on fear, trying to stampede citizens in both countries onto the path of growing across the board social, political, military, and economic hostility.
We hear absolutely groundless charges coming from both societies suggesting the current pandemic had its origins in our respective militaries and intentional pernicious actions. Though he has not leveled such charges, we have a president in Washington that initially was more interested in assigning blame to foreigners, notably China and Europe, than taking the advice of his science advisors. For its part, China was slow in affording transparency and in responding to CDC requests for access and information. Some PRC military and Foreign Ministry voices have suggested intentional spread by American forces. At least one member of the U.S. Congress has suggested purposeful Chinese action, as have more extreme voices in civil society. Elements of both national leaderships appear more interested in blaming each other than cooperating to the benefit of both peoples and the world.
USCNPM: Can you comment on China’s handling of this crisis from the beginning of this crisis to this date?
Dr. Lampton: At the start of the disease spread in China, the local and national responses were delayed and counterproductive. After initial lack of transparency and excessive early delay in taking effective measures, drastic quarantine measures were adopted, and the rate of disease spread apparently was slowed greatly. Time will tell whether these positive trends continue or there is a subsequent resurgence.
More specifically, we know the following: A dangerous pathogen struck the first known patient (in Wuhan) December 1, 2019; medical Dr. Li Wenliang in Wuhan on December 30, 2019, announced on social media that a dangerous SARS-like pathogen was spreading in the Wuhan area; Dr. Li was subsequently reprimanded for “spreading rumors” (he died of the disease in the first part of February 2020); and we know that China’s national leaders did not make public announcements on the gathering storm in Wuhan until January 20 (Premier Li Keqiang) and January 25, 2020 (President Xi Jinping).
Evaluating the system’s response a Chinese judge said the following on the Supreme Court’s own social media account on January 28: “If the public listened to this ‘rumor’ [Dr. Li] at that time [December 30,2019], and adopted measures such as wearing a mask, strict disinfection, and avoiding going to the wildlife market based on panic about SARS, this may have been a better way to prevent and control the new pneumonia … As long as the information is basically true, the publishers and disseminators are not intentionally malicious, and the behavior objectively has not caused serious harm, we should maintain a tolerant attitude towards such ‘false information.’” This statement speaks for itself. Had Chinese authorities been more honest with themselves and their citizens, even though everyone had less than perfect knowledge, they would have been more transparent with the world and thereby have allowed other localities in China and around the world to get a head start on dealing with what now is a global public health emergency.
However, even once at least imperfect knowledge was globally available by late-January, many other political authorities around the world were slow to act and were not entirely honest with their own citizens, an example being President Trump who on March 10 argued that: “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away….[B]e calm. It’s really working out.”
USNCPM: What impact does the coronavirus have on US-China relations? Is it a problem or an opportunity?
Dr. Lampton: One could just as easily ask, “What impact has a deteriorating U.S.-China relationship had on mutual cooperation concerning this global public health menace?” Ask either question and the answer is the same. The current insufficiency of essential U.S.-China cooperation reflects deteriorating bilateral ties and, in turn, deteriorating bilateral ties further hamper bilateral (and multilateral) public health and other cooperation. Nonetheless, looking ahead, opportunities remain for bilateral U.S.-China and multilateral public health cooperation. As we drive forward to develop and disseminate vaccines and strive to overcome global equipment, professional, and other shortfalls, there is plenty of room for reinvigorated Sino-American public heath cooperation. Such cooperation might positively spill over into broader bilateral ties.
Beijing’s initial lack of transparency, in part reflected the reluctance of lower-level officials to truthfully pass early warnings up the system and there also appears to have been a reluctance at the Center to publicly act on worrisome news bubbling up from below. The reluctance to be forthcoming also stemmed from Beijing’s expectation that in the current setting of US-China friction Washington would use any PRC transparency to embarrass the regime. The combination of lower-level reluctance to tell superiors the full extent of the problem, the reluctance of the top to act on it, the upcoming New Year and other holidays and economic fears, and the expectation of unhelpful foreign reactions all conspired to slow responses. The initial cooperation between China’s national health authorities and the United States CDC was not what it should have been, in part reflecting the general deterioration in US-China cooperation.
At the same time, Americans need to recognize their own Administration’s response has been woefully inadequate irrespective of China’s initial steps. President Trump’s repeated mention of the “foreign” and “Chinese” virus, along with the lack of domestic preparation organizationally (he did away with the National Security Council Office that would have focused on, and coordinated a science-based response to the pandemic), poor budget priorities (the U.S. administration lowered relevant CDC spending), the president’s protracted resistance to doing anything to dramatically increase domestic testing, his statements that simply contradicted the advice of his science advisors (statements often made with those advisors literally standing by him), and his early statements indicating that the outbreak would be a short, mild episode in the United States, collectively have converged to drive the U.S. president into a corner where he blames his domestic predecessors, China, and our European allies and friends.
USCNPM: There are discussions on whether China will become less ambitious on the global stage because of the virus? What is your take on this?
Dr. Lampton: This episode is not over for either China or the world, so this crisis’ short- and long-term effects on Chinese foreign policy are not yet fully developed or evident. But, I hope that this tragic episode leads to more Chinese involvement in global health and other issues and that it also leads to more positive and active U.S. involvement multilaterally and more U.S.-China cooperation. I have been heartened by China’s initial and rather prompt offers of assistance to Italy, a country that now is suffering greatly from the pandemic. This Chinese assistance was a reassuring exercise of strength and an expression of generosity of spirit. I wish that Beijing could find the same reassuring spirit as it deals with the issue of Taipei’s status and participation in the work of the World Health Assembly.
US-China Perception Question 4): As a global community, if we learn something from this crisis what would your lesson be?
Dr. Lampton: Though perhaps excessively optimistic, we may come to see that this episode of faltering bilateral cooperation was a warning, a warning that we heeded. The warning is that far from being just a peripheral consideration of national interest, Sino-American cooperation is central to both countries’ national well-being and broader interests, whether humanitarian, economic, or security. This episode reveals that so-called “soft” security issues (such as international public health) can teach lessons every bit as bitter as those taught by “hard security” failures. This experience should compel both Beijing and Washington to recognize that either “decoupling” or “self-reliance” are dangerous delusions in the connected world we both are striving to build.
This interview was arranged and conducted by Juan Zhang.
Ethiopia is currently in the process of completing the largest infrastructure project in the country’s history, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. With 70% of the construction for the dam completed, Ethiopia’s leaders have heralded it as serving two critical goals. The dam serves as both an emblem of Ethiopia’s development as well as a practical means to provide clean energy to its citizens, 65% of which currently are not connected to the energy grid.
While Ethiopia’s efforts to invest in hydropower as a means of development should be applauded, the dam project has severely soured relations with Ethiopia’s upstream neighbour, Egypt. Since 2011, while Egypt was reeling from the Arab Spring, Cairo has argued that the dam presents a fundamental threat to its energy and water security. Egypt relies on the Nile for 90% of its water needs, and the government has already taken steps to limit rice farming on the Nile in order to protect water supplies for its rapidly growing population—growing at 2.5% annually and projected to reach 145 million people by 2030.
Indeed, Egypt’s President al-Sisi stressed how urgent of a priority the country’s water security on the Nile is at a UN conference last September, stressing that “the Nile is a question of life, a matter of existence to Egypt”. Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam, therefore, represents a significant threat to its future prosperity.
Yet for Ethiopia, the Nile and projects such as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam go to the heart of its aspirations as a rising African power. It not only represents a chance to develop the country’s energy network—and indeed to sell excess energy to its neighbours—but it also is a vital part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s ‘Medemer’ [‘Coming Together’] political doctrine. Ethiopia has taken the unusual step of mostly self-financing the dam instead of seeking loans from international institutions or foreign lenders. It has sought to meet much of the $4.5 billion cost mostly through the sale of bonds, which it has sold to citizens both at home and abroad. For example, a recent report by the Brookings Institute stated that there is some pressure on public sector employees to buy the bonds. Despite the high cost of the bonds, many government employees have nonetheless purchased them “primarily because of pressure from the government, and the belief that participation in this national project is a show of one’s patriotism.”
With 70% of the dam completed, the central issue of contention hinges on the rate at which the dam basin will be filled, rather than whether to complete the construction of the dam. Ethiopia has stated that it aims to start filling the basin this July, while it is estimated it could take up to 7 years to fill to capacity. Egypt is calling for Ethiopia to fill the basin at a slower rate in order to protect the flow of water downstream to its territory, and to prevent further pressure on its already strained water resources. The rate and extent to which Egypt will lose farmland is directly proportional to how quickly Ethiopia decides to fill the dam’s basin.
In an attempt to reach an agreement, last October Egypt called on the United States to broker talks between itself, Sudan and Ethiopia. While these talks are ongoing in Washington DC, it was announced on February 26th that Ethiopia would skip this week’s round of talks—the third in the process—as it was still consulting with relevant parties in Ethiopia on its position. Indeed, while there was hope that a deal could be reached as early as this February, these expectations waned after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated during a visit to Ethiopia last month that “a great deal of work remains”.
Given this critical stage and tense atmosphere of the project—and the careful diplomatic threads involved in the negotiations over the Nile flow—where does China stand on the issue? China is currently heavily invested in Ethiopia, with loan data from the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University detailing that Ethiopia received $652m in loans from China in 2017 alone. While China is not directly funding the dam’s construction costs, Chinese companies have been brought in for much of the construction work—drawing on Chinese expertise in the hydroelectric sector. For example, it was recently reported that Chinese companies were awarded contracts earlier this month to “pick up the pace” on the project, with contracts worth $40.1 million and $112 million awarded to China Gezhouba Group and Voith Hydro Shanghai respectively.
Moreover, while China has not been directly involved in lending for the construction costs of the dam itself, it has provided significant financing for the related power lines and infrastructure which will eventually transport the electricity to neighbouring towns and cities. For example, in 2013 China, loaned Ethiopia $1.2bn to build power transmission lines to connect the dam to major towns and cities. Furthermore, in April last year, China further announced an investment of $1.8 billion to expand Ethiopia’s power grid following Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s visit to Beijing.
While China has so far avoided being drawn into the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia and is playing no official role in the US-led talks, it remains to be seen how much longer China can distance itself from the dispute. As a major construction partner for the dam as well as a significant source of investment in the Egyptian economy, Chinese interests are closely intertwined with the project’s successful and timely completion as well as maintaining its economic and political relations with both Ethiopia and Egypt.
The project’s success will be an important marker for future Chinese investment in Africa’s energy infrastructure—especially in the hydropower sector. China is actively involved in other hydropower projects in Africa, such as the Mambila hydroelectric project—slated to be Nigeria’s largest power plant upon completion—and is being built by a consortium of Chinese companies. Indeed, the NGO International Rivershas compiled data indicating that China is “fuelling the dam boom in Africa” through their involvement in financing or construction of dams in 22 African countries. With such a significant hydropower presence, China will need to tread carefully.
While there currently appears to have been little direct criticism of China’s involvement of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, it is difficult to believe that China is impartial on the issue. With such a significant number of contracts awarded to State Owned Enterprises such as Gezhouba Group, China can play a pivotal role in the conflict. If China chooses to turn a blind eye, citing its non-interventionist principles it may risk souring relations with both Addis Ababa and Cairo, which are both important investment partners.
Indeed, there have previously been high profile protests regarding Chinese financial and logistical backing for dam projects in Africa. For example, in 2011 activists protested outside the Chinese embassy in Nairobi against Chinese financial backing of the Gibe 3 damn, which they fear will harm Kenya’s Turkhana Lake. There have also been reports that Chinese built dam projects are significantly failing to meet basic environmental standards, following the publication of a study by International Rivers last year which found that companies “routinely compromise social and environmental objectives and disregard their stated policies to keep to schedule and on budget”. Moreover, closer to home in Asia, China’s refusal to address environmental concerns while building the Myitsone Dam in Myanmar has resulted in a huge loss of investment after the Myanmar government shut down the project.
With these concerns in mind, perhaps it is time for China to look closer at the countries in which Chinese companies are operating, and where China is investing. With such close and significant levels of Chinese cooperation on infrastructure projects China has a responsibility to ensure that its activities do not acerbate the potential for conflict among upstream and downstream countries. It should also seek to safeguard its relationship with all of its African partners while encouraging sustainable development of hydropower. If China is fuelling the hydropower boom, it must ultimately take some responsibility for the potential political fallout.
Article by Iain Millar, China Program Spring 2020 Intern.
What happens when we view US-China relations through the lens of individual workers?
What would you consider as the standout film of this year’s Oscar Awards? Ask around and you may hear people talk of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite or Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. Yet for those of us interested in US-China relations, another film may have piqued our interest. Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar’s American Factory took home the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature on Sunday night. The film, produced by Barack Obama’s production company Higher Ground, charts the transition of a former General Motors factory in Moraine, Ohio which is bought by the Chinese automobile glassmaking company Fuyao Glass Industry Group.
The film depicts Chinese Fuyao employees as they come to the factory in Moraine to help teach their new American colleagues the manufacturing process. It highlights equally the moments of collaboration and tension due to different working cultures and expectations—particularly in regard to the calls from Fuyao’s American workforce for high health and safety standards, and the right to form a union.
On the one hand, the documentary highlights the spirit of collaboration which initially appeared to underpin Chinese investment in the U.S.. In the opening frames, a recruiter tells the potential workforce “We have facilities around the world, throughout China, the United States now…what we’re doing is melding two cultures together”. Yet this “melding’ of cultures”ends up being a far more complex and vexing task.
The film charts a host of challenges for the joint U.S.-Chinese venture. The biggest obstacle appears to be the desire of many of the American workers to form a union to encourage better working conditions in the face of increasing reports of workplace injuries. For the factory owner,Cao Dewang, the unionization of the workforce represents a frustrating obstacle in his path to make the factory profitable, telling senior management that, “If a union comes in, I’m shutting down”.
Yet later in the film, his Chinese colleagues reflect on their experiences working in the U.S. so far, telling him, “a lot of things here in the U.S. are different from China”. It is perhaps this opportunity for the Chinese and American workers at Fuyao to reflect and better understand their cultural differences which represents one of the factory’s successes. There are genuine and even inspirational moments of bonding between individuals, such as when American worker Rob Haerr bonds with his Chinese counterpart Wong He. He shares his shock at learning that the Chinese workers had to stay in the U.S. for two years, away from their family, with no extra pay. He confides “that really started making me appreciate what they are doing for us more and more”. Later, Rob reveals that he invited Wong over for a Thanksgiving Meal at his home with his Chinese friends and they also shot guns together and took pictures on Rob’s Harley Davidson. These moments in the documentary not only highlight the strong personal interactions between the Chinese and American subjects, but they also humanize the workers for audiences at home in a relatable way that transcends political and economic tensions.
Despite this growing spirit of personal interaction between many of the workers, it is clear that the success of the factory cannot be built on individual collaboration alone. Structural issues remain—from different expectations regarding health and safety, stricter labor laws in the U.S., as well as the traditional challenges of setting up any new business. These larger issues are reflected in the fact that Fuyao only turned a profit in 2017, three years after it bought the former GM factory site. Moreover, current U.S. CEO Jeff Liu has predicted that profits will be hit this year by a general downturn in the car manufacturing sector signaling that the Fuyao’s American operation may still be prone to cracks.
Shifting perceptions from the ground up
Despite the difficulties Fuyao has experienced operating in the American labor market, its continued presence and expansion to three other sites in the U.S. may serve as an example of how Chinese investment in American industry can build trust and collaboration from the ground up. Could Chinese investment in U.S. industry eventually lead to a positive shift in perception? Cao Dewang later in the film touches on this point, arguing “the most important thing is not how much money we earn, but how this will change American’s views of the Chinese”.
If Cao Dewang aims to shift perceptions, then it would appear the film is a key part of his strategy. The filmmakers were invited to make the film at Cao’s request, but the directors insist they remained independent and objective. At a time when media reports about China and the U.S. are focused on conflict and tensions, American Factory brings the narrative of investment closer to home by showing the opportunities for job creation and the challenges of different working cultures. In humanizing the often-contentious topic of trade, without mitigating or attempting to cover up the difficulties, American Factory, therefore, avoids the sensationalism that often permeates the US-China narrative.
Chinese-American narratives on screen: An olive branch?
In this way, American Factory is arguably the latest attempt by American and Chinese media professionals to reshape U.S.-China perceptions through cross-cultural film projects. For example, directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar have stated that a large part of the film’s success was thanks to their collaboration with Chinese film directors Yiqian Zhang and Mijie Li, which allowed them to capture the stories of the Chinese workers in the film, alongside giving them a valuable insight into Chinese culture.
In doing so, American Factory follows in the footsteps of other cross-cultural film projects which have aimed to highlight Chinese American experiences. They have often done so through making informal links with filmmakers who are part of the Chinese American diaspora. One such example is Lulu Wang’s recent award-winning film The Farewell which charts the culture clash of the Chinese American experiences of family cohesion and mourning and is based on director Lulu Wang’s own experience as a Chinese-American and the death of her grandmother. The film, which picked up numerous awards including the Sundance “Audience FavouriteAward”—focuses on the challenges facing Chinese Americans when they visit their family members in China. In highlighting the human side of U.S.-China relations, it has been suggested that it could act as the ‘Olive branch the U.S.-China culture war needs.”
Perhaps American Factory represents another olive branch. By bringing attention to the human interactions at the ground level of U.S.-China relations, it suggests there is a lot that we can learn from the tensions and struggles depicted. Rather than hypothesizing about China’s rise through the lens of International Relations theories, perhaps we should look to the workers in American Factory as a microcosm for navigating the broader U.S.-China bilateral relationship at all levels—government and non-government. It begs the question: What happens if put the everyday people—who stand to gain from increased investment and the exchange of ideas and culture—back at the heart of the US-China conversation?
By Iain Millar. Spring 2020 China Program Intern
The people’s war against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic is entering a decisive stage in China. Under the strong leadership of the central government, the whole nation has devoted tremendous amounts of resources and efforts to this war. The prevention and control of the epidemic in Hubei, especially in such heavily-hit areas as Wuhan, has become a key campaign; and the measures taken by other Chinese regions will determine whether this war will turn to be a war of attrition or a protracted war. For now, a few questions remain for the international community concerned about how soon China will totally conquer the coronavirus: When will be the turning point of the epidemic? What new measurers and efforts have the Chinese government and people taken to fight against the epidemic and with what effects? What new progresses have been made by the Chinese medical community in epidemic control and treatment to COVID-19 patients? And what lessons can be learned by the international public health circles from this war against an epidemic of even greater impact than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003? This report gives latest answers to those questions from a special research team at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS).
The reports concludes that at present, the COVID-19 epidemic manifests a trend of localized clusters of outbreak (especially in the City of Wuhan and some other areas in Hubei Province) but coming increasingly in check in other parts of China. The situation in Hubei, Wuhan and other regions is expected to be further improved with enhanced national strategy and measures. Nevertheless, the turning point of the epidemic will depend on the effectiveness of the current prevention and control measures, as well as cooperation of the general public. In the next week or two, China will be faced by new challenges as millions of people return to work in major cities after the Spring Festival. If the number of new infections can be kept low for two weeks, then we can say the turning point has come in China except for Hubei.
This report points out that although there is still no direct cure for COVID-19, China’s government branch in charge of epidemic prevention, medical institutions and medical researchers have joined hands in optimizing the epidemic control strategy and patient treatment plans. It proves increasingly effective to detecting, confirming, and treating infected people at the earliest time, as well as to rescuing severely ill patients and reducing mortality rates.
It is also pointed out that China’s whole-of-government approach and efficient social mobilization system are the basic guarantee for victory of the people’s war. The many unconventional measures adopted so far — such as rushing medical staff and other resources to Wuhan from around China, assigning 19 provinces or municipalities to each help treat severely ill patients in a specified area in Hubei, instituting work-from-home arrangements, and calling for the public to stay home unless necessary –all will help China to win the war against the epidemic.
As this report believes in the end, China’s ongoing people’s war against COVID-19 epidemic can lend many lessons and inspirations to the international community for combating pandemics in the future. In the globalized era, the world is yet to be ready for pandemics breaking out in mega-cities. How to strengthen the response capabilities of local public health systems in face of an epidemic? How to gather and coordinate various resources of a nation for effective epidemic prevention and control? And how to enhance the sense of a community of shared future for mankind and reinforce joint efforts of the international community against a pandemic? The key to those questions lies in solidarity of the nation, scientific prevention and control measures, and strengthened international cooperation. I firmly believe this people’s war against the epidemic will give much enlightenment to both China and the international community.
President, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies
February 14th, 2020
Full report below. Use the arrows to navigate.【SIIS-Report-II】-on-Chinas-Fight-Against-COVID-19-Epidemic-A-Decisive-Campaign