People-to-people exchanges vital for strengthening China-US ties: experts

Pan Lijun
Yang Shilong
Success in business depends heavily on mutual understanding and an open and collaborative approach, especially in the case of China-US relations today.
Pan Lijun
Yang Shilong

People-to people exchanges are vital for strengthening US-China ties and withstanding stormy weather from economic rivalry to geopolitical tensions.

This is a central message echoed by hundreds of scholars and business leaders from both the United States and China, who gathered over the weekend at Yale University to explore cooperative opportunities between the two largest economies in the world.

With panels on macro economics, urbanization, healthcare, high-tech, art and culture, the 2018 Yale US-China Forum, held at Yale School of Management (SOM) on Saturday and the Yale Club of New York City on Sunday, discussed China’s recent emphasis on global connectivity and “shared growth through collaboration” by probing key issues related to this year’s theme, “The China Accelerator for World Development.”

“The United States is the most powerful country in the world and China is a growing power. Both countries need to find a good way to accommodate each other to prevent tensions,” Pericles Lewis, vice president for Global Strategy of Yale University, told Xinhua on the sidelines of the forum.

“Educational exchange is positive since learning more about each other’s culture will enhance friendship,” he said.

Yale has about 800 Chinese students, accounting for the largest number of international students in the university, he said, adding that the university welcomed more Chinese students.

“Today there may be some disputes on trade matters, but in the long run this will lead to closer and more friendly relations,” Lewis said.

Yale boasts a long history of connection with China. In 1835, Peter Parker, a Yale graduate, opened a hospital in China and became the first Western doctor to introduce modern anesthesia to China.

In 1854, Yung Wing, who graduated from Yale, was also the first Chinese student to earn a degree from an American college or university.

“The relationship between the two countries has gone through ups and downs over the past 150 years or so, but the continuous exchanges between the two peoples are central,” said Lewis.

In the 2016-2017 academic year, more than 350,000 Chinese students studied in the United States, according to the latest figure released by Project Atlas, a global research initiative on students’ mobility.

The number saw a 15 percent increase year on year.

Meanwhile, China ranked top two among the destinations most preferred by the US outbound students, the data showed.

The US and Chinese students and young professionals can play an important role in helping expand cultural engagement between the two countries, said Zhuo Zihan, president of the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Yale (ACSSY).

As growing numbers of Chinese and American youth study in each other’s countries, learn each other’s languages and cultures, they will more readily find common ground and manage differences when they assume leadership positions in the future, said Zhuo.

Success in business depends heavily on mutual understanding and an open and collaborative approach, especially in the case of China-US relations today, experts said.

Risk of trade war

The connection between China and the United States is of profound importance to the prosperity of the world from an economic, political, social and geo-political point of view, said Stephen Roach, former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.

Calling the US-China trade dispute a serious issue which, if handled improperly, may intensify the risk of a trade war, Roach emphasized that “globalization is win-win while trade wars are lose-lose.”

The American economist suggested three areas that the two countries can address together in terms of lowering the risk of a trade war.

Most importantly, the two countries have to develop a “better way to exchange views on a regular basis,” said Roach, such as a secretariat that contains experts from both sides to meet and exchange views and analysis over disputes.

And the two countries need to enact and pass a bilateral investment focused on market access, and develop better rules and guidelines on market access and utilize technology for improving each other’s economy, he said.

“There are problems of the US not investing in its industrial base, it’s not China’s fault,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean of Yale School of Management, of the US manufacture job loss and trade deficit with China.

“Western governance is not perfect, sometimes it’s so short-term oriented,” Sonnenfeld said. “Some people in America blame China (for that), in both parties by the way. It can be a vocal view in times of election, but it is not a majority view.”

“There are some issues about global trade, but it’s not just about China,” he said. “To sort out all these issues, there needs a lot of discussion, not threats.”

“European history is full of wars and westerners tend to solve things through direct conflicts, yet Chinese love peace and like to find solutions to disputes through negotiation,” noted Jason Liu, co-chairman of the North American Chinese Cultural Foundation, which jointly sponsored the forum with the ACSSY and SOM.

The authors are Xinhua writers.

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