In the past year, the relationship between China and the U.S. has faced many confrontations and unprecedented challenges in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its economic implications. Global leaders agree it is vital to national security and world stability that the U.S. and China work together to combat these challenges. As we approach the 50th anniversary of U.S. President Nixon’s visit to CCP Chairman Mao Zedong in China, experts gathered virtually on January 19-21, 2022 to evaluate the current state of the U.S.-China relations and how to increase cooperation going forward in CUSEF’s third international forum “Hong Kong Forum on U.S.-China Relations” co-hosted with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE).
The world is still reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the U.S.-China relationship is being tested on new fronts, both economically and culturally, but despite this, it remains the most important partnership in the world. Following this theme, this year's forum was titled “Beyond Differences, Towards Cooperation.” Over 30 of the world's most influential political and academic leaders gathered to examine these challenges in more detail and offered productive and optimistic solutions for the coming year. The forum featured speeches from experts like Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland, Jean Chretien, Former Prime Minister of Canada, Yasuo Fukuda, Former Prime Minister of Japan, Goh Chok Tong, Former Prime Minister of Singapore, and many more!
Overcoming New Challenges in 2022
Today’s world is facing new challenges, explained Dr. Victor Fung, Vice Chairman of CUSEF, in his opening remarks during the first session of the forum. Dr. Fung elaborated how the Chinese and U.S. economy today remain very interdependent, meaning all nations are affected by the decisions in this relationship, making it pertinent that joint action is taken in order to end the ongoing trade war. The pandemic drastically changed the world’s economic landscape, making cooperative efforts more important than ever.
Despite the changing times, speakers were optimistic that China and the U.S. can turn areas of mutual interest into cooperation. One area being mitigating climate change, explained Mary Robinson, who discussed how there has never been a more important time for global dialogue, especially between the U.S. and China. Robinson listed historical events in which China-U.S. cooperation was essential to resolve a crisis, giving the audience hope that the two nations can again make a positive impact.
Experts agree past progress in the U.S-China relationship shows there is potential for mutual cooperation to make a major impact on the world, and Steve Orlins, President of the National Committee on United States–China Relations, considers a lot of the threats both countries face to be joint threats, such as economic instability, terrorism, and the pandemic. Orlins believes China and the U.S. need to create paths of cooperation, and that “there are a million reasons to get the U.S.-China relationship right, and not one reason to spoil it.”
Cooporation is Key for Both Countries with Trade & Supply Issues
The second day of the forum saw the focus shift to trade & investment and the extremely relevant global supply chain crisis. The opening session, moderated by Dr. William Fung, Group Deputy Chairman of the Fung Group, centered on trade, as Dr. Fung acknowledged that the challenging times between China and the U.S. are directly impacting trade. The general agreement was that Section 301 Tariffs, put into place by the United States Trade Representative by order of former President Trump, have not only hurt China but also the American consumer.
Panelist Charles Boustany, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, said “I’ve been opposed to 301 Tariffs from the very beginning. I think it was foolish and an antiquated way of dealing with the problems that we face in the U.S./China relationship.” The feeling at the end of the discussion was one of optimism, and despite problems between both governments, the panelists agree the private sector will find a way to get around the hardships, with net results being a win-win for both China and the U.S.
Many consumers in both China and the U.S. have felt the hardship of the global supply chain crisis. Some necessary goods are simply not making it to store shelves. In the U.S., images of cargo ships stranded offshore are not a welcomed picture. In China, labor shutdowns due to COVID-19 are a critical factor in China’s supply chain issues, starting at the factory level.
The final panel of day-two, moderated by Andrew Tung, Non-Executive Director of Oriental Overseas International Limited (00IL), discussed global supply chain issues and featured a distinguished group of experts from both China and the U.S. that included William Reinsch with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Mr. Reinsch spoke mainly from the American point of view on the supply chain situation: “Politicians follow the polls in our country, and they’re taking their own increasingly hard line on China in both parties,” said Mr. Reinsch. Politics aside, a more cooperative relationship between the U.S. and China would only enhance the supply chain and trade issues involving both countries.
The Power of People-to-People Exchanges
The final day of the forum centered around ways in which the U.S. and China can cooperate on climate change and foster positive people and cultural exchanges. Max Baucus, Former United States Ambassador to China, discussed how historically, China and the U.S. have foster positive cultural exchanges around climate change, but today there are several factors working against a mutual agreement, including the deterioration of the relationship in recent months and President Biden’s lack of a China policy. Baucus advised the next step is for both countries to prioritize transparency and promote mutual trust, whereby Biden will outline a clear plan for his China strategy and China will show what actions it is taking to combat climate change.
The Covid-19 pandemic has halted valuable people-to-people interactions, explained Chen Wenling, Chief Economist of China Center for International Economic Exchanges. The values of a country and its people are influenced by many factors that require cultural exchanges to better understand one another. Panelists agreed the China-U.S. relationship needs visionaries who take into consideration the interests of both countries to build a future that will benefit the future generations.
During the closing, James Chau, CUSEF’s Editor At Large, relayed to participants the hope the ideas shared over the past three days would transcend more than just this forum, and he concluded that “when you talk about values, ideas, and ideals, it's not just words that sound good or have a geopolitical strategy attached to them, they really count, and they really mean something for everybody.”