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US-China Forum 2021: “Addressing Inequality and Promoting Social Welfare”

University of Chicago President Paul Alivistos offers welcoming remarks on the first day of the forum.
University of Chicago President Paul Alivistos offers welcoming remarks on the first day of the forum.

CUSEF has partnered with the University of Chicago (UChicago) to host the sixth US-China Forum. In previous years, the event centered around topics ranging from economic relations, urban innovation, energy policy, the arts, and more. This year’s theme was “Addressing Inequality and Promoting Social Welfare”, which aimed to foster discourse on “the ways in which social policy and social service provision are leveraged to address social problems in the US and China.”

The three-day forum, which took place from November 16-18, kicked off with welcoming remarks from UChicago President Paul Alivisatos, who greeted the participants, explaining how they are gathered “for an exploration of how our two nations, with such different cultures and such linked societies, can connect with each other to explore problems together.”

The keynote speaker for the first day was Wang Zhenyao, Dean of the Beijing Normal University China Philanthropy Research Institute, who discussed the future of philanthropic work in China. In his presentation, Wang showed figures explaining the economic outlook of China and the world. He explained the cultural differences in how countries in the east and west approach philanthropy as well as how we can further promote philanthropy within our own respective countries.

In addition to hosting keynote speakers, the forum, which was featured in the UChicago news, gave students and members of the Chicago community the opportunity to participate in panel discussions and Q&A sessions.

Students and community members participated in Q&A sessions following each panel discussion.

The first panel of the event was titled “Shifting Contours of Governance and Provision: Civil Society and the State”. This seminar examined “the nature of the shifting relationship between the state and non-state actors in shaping policy and delivering goods and services to promote social welfare and address inequality.” This topic continues to be relevant for the U.S. and China, as both are increasingly relying on non-state actors to help promote social welfare practices and politics.

During the panel, Professor Jennifer E. Mosley at UChicago explained how “in terms of benefits, there is a mutual learning opportunity here for people who are doing work on the ground to be able to learn what policy making constraints are, but also for the government to learn from those with expertise that are on the ground and working with affected communities every day.”

The panel on Health, Mental Health, and Disability featured guest speakers CUI Fengming, LI Ling, Colleen Grogan, Harold Pollack, and moderator Zhiying Ma.

Day two of the forum was initiated by UChicago Vice President Juan de Pablo, who introduced the topics of Health, Mental Health, and Disability and Children and Youth. During the Health, Mental Health, and Disability panel, experts discussed the major changes both the U.S. and China have made to their healthcare system in recent years. The U.S. passed the Affordable Care Act under President Obama, and China pursued universal health coverage, with nearly 95% of citizens currently covered.

The evening conversation then shifted to discussing how together we can protect one of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in our society; children and youth. Professor Miwa Yasui emphasized that for these marginalized groups, it is important to look at “how do the cultural values, beliefs, and traditions impact the ways in which people think about mental health, and how they end up seeking the services that are necessary.”

The third and final day of the event kicked off with welcome remarks from both UChicago Chancellor Robert J. Zimmer and Zhao Jian, Consul General for the People's Republic of China in Chicago. The final panel was on “Social Inequality and Policies of Inclusion and Exclusion”, which discussed that as economic wealth continues to grow for the U.S. and China, so does inequality and access to wealth, services, and opportunities for many members of society. The panelists addressed how inequality in the U.S. is often tied to race, while in China it affects those who live in rural versus urban areas. According to Xiang Rong, Professor at Yunnan University, “rural urban migration is a challenge for the Sustainability Development Goals,” and it is important to address how to make, “cities and human settlements inclusive safe, resilient and sustainable.”

Participants mingle at the closing reception of the forum.

Click here to watch the recorded sessions from the US-China Forum 2021.

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