In what has been one of the most challenging years in the history of China-U.S. relations, and against the stark backdrop of the ongoing global pandemic, world leaders gathered virtually to urge a reconciliation between China and the United States on important global issues. Speaking at the “Beyond Differences, Towards Cooperation” forum hosted by the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) and the China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE), speakers including Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and Former Prime Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong, emphasized the need for China and the U.S. to work towards tackling key areas of cooperation such as climate change, economic recovery, and trade. Former Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien and Former Prime Minister of Japan Yasuo Fukuda also stressed the importance of U.S. and China cooperation.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Victor Fung, Vice Chairman of CUSEF, emphasized that despite the seemingly deteriorating political relations, China and the U.S. have remained highly interdependent economically as the U.S. remains China’s largest export market and one of its largest trading partners. Dr. Fung identified two immediate priorities for bilateral cooperation, namely global economic recovery, and improving systems for sustainable trade and investment. He also noted that last month's rare joint pledge by both countries to reject a potential nuclear war and arms race marked a positive significant shift in communication.
In the first session of the forum entitled “U.S.-China Relations – Challenges and Next Steps”, President Mary Robinson stressed the severity of China not meeting climate goals and emphasized the opportunity that renewables present for the country to deliver on decarbonization. At the same time, she stated that the “U.S. must also overcome its political deadlock to deliver on pledges already made, including concrete steps to reduce its emissions and accepting its fair share of the long-overdue $100 billion in climate finance to developing nations.” Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, suggested that the two countries “avoid conflict over differences, embrace healthy competition, and maximize cooperation.”
Former Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien and Former Prime Minister of Japan Yasuo Fukuda, agreed that although there are many global issues that need to be solved and could potentially be solved with China-U.S. cooperation, it is important to look back on the significant progress that has been made in this relationship over the last few decades and remain optimistic that current issues can be overcome.
President of the National Committee on United States - China Relations Steve Orlins, emphasized that one of the biggest detriments to the relationship has been the increasing stifling of people to people, cultural, and social exchanges relations such as the restrictions of U.S. social media platforms in China and the denial of visas to Chinese students in the U.S. Instead of a ‘tit for tat’ approach, the two countries need to create “habits of cooperation” in the short term, such as the immediate removal of trade tariffs and agreeing on the definition of national security so that both sides can continue to do business and restart scientific cooperation, to name a few.
Despite the challenging period in diplomatic relations, Former Vice Premier of the State Council of China, Zeng Peiyan echoed that this relationship remains key to global success and stability especially when it comes to strategic issues going forward and should be underpinned by three principles: mutual respect, peaceful existence, and win-win cooperation. It is in the interest of both countries to actually strengthen cooperation especially when it comes to tackling the pandemic, climate action, trade, and technological innovation.